Interprofessional training and "speed dating" program help medical students learn about peers' fields

Interprofessional training and "speed dating" program help medical students learn about peers' fields
Dale W. Bratzler
IPEC Collaborative First session

Students at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OU HSC) have the opportunity to learn to work with their peers in different health professions through an interprofessional training program.

Empowering Patients through Inter-professional Collaboration (EPIC) began four years ago as a series of four instructional sessions and four clinical care experiences for 80 students in order to promote the learning objectives of the Interprofessional Education and Practice Collaborative (IEPC) of roles and responsibilities, ethics and values, communication and teamwork.

“This is a program we started when a group of faculty from all of the colleges on this campus and also faculty from the school of social work on the Norman campus came together to start thinking about how we train students to go out and work in teams to provide patient-centered care,” said Dale Bratzler, a medical doctor, master of public health, core faculty member for the program and professor and associate dean of the OU College of Public Health.

EPIC brings together students from the colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, public health, social work and allied health in teams of 10 to care for patients with complex cases at Good Shepherd Ministries, a clinic in Oklahoma City that serves only uninsured patients.

Jason Dommer recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and plans to go into public health in Anchorage, Alaska, through the Air Force.

“EPIC is my favorite experience the entire time in the College of Nursing,” Dommer said. “As a nursing student, it was so neat to work hand in hand with a medical student and actually listen to the way they’re thinking. Learning how they look at an issue really bolsters what knowledge you have.”

Colleen Parrish, a fourth-year College of Medicine student who aspires to become a pediatrician, found the program to be an eye-opening and humbling experience.

“At first, I thought, ‘Hey, I’m really great at working with other people; this will be really easy,’” Parrish said. “Our first clinic was a little bit of a disaster. We had planned everything, and then we realized not necessarily that there were too many cooks in the kitchen, but we were all coming from different cookbooks. There was a lot of frustrations about who was responsible for what, but the great thing about those frustrations was that we had faculty support and we got to talk through it.”

National training

Because EPIC is a competitive program that is only open to a limited number of students, the core faculty members added All Professions Day so every single student can participate in interprofessional training at some point during their time at OU HSC.

With the addition of All Professions Day, one class from every college on campus — about 800 students — is able to participate in a day of team-building in the fall and a day of clinical scenarios in the spring each school year.

“Our campus is fortunate; not only do we have all seven colleges on the same campus, but we’re also making an effort to move toward this [interprofessional education],” Parrish said. “It’s a huge thing for OU HSC, making that big step forward and being a beacon for other schools to follow as well.”

With the support of Peggy Wisdom and the Wisdom Family Foundation, core faculty members created the necessary programs.

One exercise is a type of speed-dating that allows students to get to know their peers and learn more about each other’s health professions quickly.

In between sessions, the teams are asked to do community service projects in OKC.

Interprofessional training has become so well-recognized that it is an accreditation requirement for most programs across the U.S.

Fifteen national educational associations like the Association of American Medical Colleges are members of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that aims to connect health professionals for better care.

As payment models for health care change in the U.S., Bratzler thinks that will cause a shift toward promoting patient health instead of just providing more health care.

“My principal employment is in public health,” he said. “[We are having to] rethink the ways we pull teams together to think about truly providing person-centered care. We historically have waited until the patients got really sick, and then we have this fabulous infrastructure to take care of them. We haven’t had a health care system that’s focused on keeping patients healthy so they don’t need to use those expensive resources.”

By promoting interprofessional training, students at OU HSC are able to gain a great appreciation of many of the challenges that stand in the way of patients achieving health.

“A lot of these people are very good friends of mine,” Dommer said. “I feel confident knowing that if I run into an issue at some point, I can call up my medical student friends and ask them [what they know]. This was a great program, and I would recommend it to anybody.”

To learn more about EPIC, visit   

Print headline: Colossal collaboration, Students at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center receive important interprofessional training.

  • or