Health care is not defined solely by what happens in the emergency room or the doctor’s office. Patients bring with them their illnesses and their chronic conditions, but they also bring the barriers they face throughout their lives that can influence or even compromise their care. This is especially true for people in poverty who may lack the money for medication, have no consistent means of making it to their doctor’s appointments or are in danger of losing their homes or their children. These stressors not only complicate how they receive and adhere to the care recommendations of their health care providers, but can also exacerbate their conditions.

The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine has long understood that physicians cannot expect to help patients circumvent these obstacles on their own. Interprofessional cooperation with health care workers of other disciplines or representatives of community organizations can be a powerful tool to help understand what a patient is going through and how to get them the help they need. USF Health Office of Student Diversity and Enrichment regularly facilitates interprofessional education (IPE) experiences that help students prepare for this kind of partnership.

Faculty from across USF Health recently sampled some of these educational experiences as they role played patients in a simulation exercise designed to show the struggles people in poverty face and how those barriers can make caring for themselves and their families difficult. 

“The idea behind this day is to train us, the faculty, to better understand what it’s like to be poor, how poverty impacts our ability as caregivers to provide care to them,” said Charles Lockwood, MD, MHCM, senior vice president at USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.

In addition to the simulation, the leaders held networking sessions to create new interprofessional partnerships as well as discussed the future of IPE at USF Health. “I think people responded very positively to this exercise because it brought us together in ways that we don’t usually experience,” said Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, senior associate vice president of USF Health and dean of the USF Health College of Public Health.

The group also heard a presentation of USF Health’s entry in this year’s Clarion Case Competition. The competition calls for interprofessional groups of students from multiple medical disciplines to study a fictitious case involving a patient suffering a sentinel event and analyze what happened and what changes could be made to prevent such an event in the future.

“I think the day was an extreme success,”said Haru Okuda, MD, FACEP, FSSH, executive director for USF Health Interprofessional Education and Practice (IPEP) and executive director of the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS). “We saw lots of smiles and frustrations but real emotions that I think allowed the faculty to really understand the challenges that people in poverty go through.”