In March, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) hosted the regional 2015 CLARION Case Study Competition. Top-scoring individuals at the regional competition formed the interprofessional student team that represented Texas at the national competition at the University of Minnesota, where the CLARION Competition began in 2002. The goals of the CLARION Competition are to develop understanding and appreciation of the skills that each professional brings to the health care team and to develop positive relationships that will extend into professional careers.
The team consisted of Cynthia Dunlap and Karen Wright, both Doctor of Nursing Practice program student in the TTUHSC School of Nursing, Jeffrey Edwards, M.D., resident from the Baylor Scott & White School of Medicine, and Mahmoud Sabawi, Pharm.D. student at Texas A&M School of Pharmacy. The Texas team impressively placed second at nationals and all learned a great deal about interprofessional problem solving throughout the competition. Additionally, the Texas team believes the competitive environment offers a fantastic opportunity to test innovation in a comfortable place.
“The CLARION Competition is a fun and safe environment in which we were able to create and share ideas for system improvement without the fear of failure or ridicule,” Edwards said. “The idealistic solutions may not be entirely feasible in real-life, but the competition is a great way to start thinking about positive change in health care.”
Each year, a specific case study is designed to challenge teams in solving particular problems. This year’s case study focused on systems-based practice as a means to improve patient safety. The scenario resounded strongly with the Texas team, which had several months to prepare for the regional and national competition. As health care professionals, they knew quite well how important the topic is.
“The case was scary because each of us on the team had seen similar situations,” Wright said. “We had a real sense of the importance of the work as it could highlight opportunities to keep people safe.”
With the gravity and significance of the case study in mind, the team battled anxiety when it was time to share ideas and solutions to the proposed case problem.
“It was a little nerve-wracking having to present our well-developed, but still amateur, ideas to these extremely accomplished, experienced and intelligent judges,” Edwards recalled.
Wright agreed and added that despite months of preparation, there were still some surprises along the way.
“Somehow, I managed during my portion of the presentation to hit the remote button,” Wright said. “The presentation was blacked out on-screen. Thankfully, our Pharm.D. student confidently pushed a button, and the slides reappeared.”
The foundation of the CLARION competition is to reduce medical error by improving interprofessional communication. The CLARION competition brings students in health care administration, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, allied health sciences and other fields related to health care together in teams to solve CLARION case studies and develop interprofessional skills.
“The weekend was quite fun,” Wright said. “The other teams were friendly and helpful.”
Each team member was reminded of the importance of interprofessional collaboration to improving health care and patient safety. Furthermore, the positive experience as an interprofessional team demonstrated that communication and problem solving across professions is possible and necessary.
“I think we all knew the importance of working as an interdisciplinary team, but the question was in how to make it work,” Wright said. “The work and competition showed us how to be flexible and make it work.”
For Edwards, the project revealed how complex the health care system is and that improving it will require many people and solutions.
“Health care begins long before, and ends long after, going to the doctor’s office,” Edwards said. “Better health and wellness require us to be proactive by eating healthy food, exercising and abstaining from tobacco and excessive alcohol use. Also, everybody, from the patient to the physician, needs to start working toward a better health care situation in this country.”
For the TTUHSC faculty who organized the CLARION Competition, Alexia Green, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, professor and dean emeriti, Joyce Batcheller, DNP, R.N., NEA-BC, recurrent faculty, and Cindy Acton, DNP, R.N., NEA-BC, associate professor, all of the School of Nursing, Charles Seifert, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCPS, regional dean and professor in the School of Pharmacy, and Lisa Popp, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Medicine and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the competition was an opportunity to demonstrate the critical interprofessional skills they have cultivated over the course of their careers. Each faculty mentor worked diligently to impart interprofessional skills to the team. The event was a culmination of the efforts of the School of Nursing's Doctor of Nursing Practice program faculty, Shelley Burson, the Office of the President and TTUHSC’s Department of Interprofessional Education, representatives from which all assisted with organizing and raising funds for the CLARION Competition.
“Our mentors provided excellent guidance,” Wright said. “I wish all students could have an opportunity to work that closely with faculty as it was a tremendous experience.”