An End and a Beginning: Three VPIL teams reflect on Capstone projects, interdisciplinary teamwork, and the future
by Emma Mattson
For M2 Bushra Rahman, this April meant saying some bittersweet goodbyes.
As a first-year med student, Rahman joined the Vanderbilt Program for Interprofessional Learning (VPIL). In the almost two years since then, she’s worked on an interdisciplinary team alongside nursing, pharmacy, and social work students to provide holistic care to clinic patients.
For the med students on each team, VPIL runs through the M1 and M2 years, so this April means the end of each group’s partnership. First, however, the teams each present on their Capstone, a clinical intervention they’ve spent the past year designing and implementing.
We talked with members of three different VPIL teams to learn about their Capstone projects and to ask how interprofessional work has changed their perspective on their medical callings.
Designing Value-Added Projects for Each Clinic
The teams’ Capstone projects, presented virtually on April 7, covered a wide range of topics and strategies.
Rahman’s team, for example, explored how to increase screening foot exams in diabetic patients. Given that diabetes is commonly associated with foot pathology problems, the team had a simple question: What kind of intervention would help providers increase the number of foot exams performed and documented with diabetic patients?
“We ultimately decided to arm providers with a CDC factsheet about foot care in diabetes that they could give to patients as a reminder to 1) remove shoes and socks for an exam and 2) continue foot care at home,” Rahman said.
Besides the practical experience they gained implementing preventative-health interventions, Rahman and her team members were also motivated to seek interprofessional teamwork in the future.
“My biggest takeaway from this experience is that interprofessional collaboration is necessary for all successful medical ventures, whether they are academic in nature or focused more on measuring and improving clinical outcomes,” Rahman said.
Sharing Capstone Projects with the Wider Community
Like Rahman, M2 Anna Whitney has spent the past months designing and implementing a Capstone project with her VPIL team. Their initiative investigated how a peer partnership program might increase quality of life for children with lupus.
For Whitney, presenting the project at the virtual Capstone event was a fitting end to the two-year experience— and a fitting beginning for what she hopes will be an interprofessional career.
“I have a greater appreciation for the educational background and skillsets of pharmacists, nurses, and social workers and plan to carry this into my future career,” Whitney said. “I hope to practice medicine with all of these professionals on my team because patient care is not complete with only one perspective.”
VPIL team member Shelby Crants (M2) described the virtual Capstone presentation as a very emotional event.
“Everyone was excited to share their project ideas and outcomes, as well as to reflect on everything they had learned from the experience,” Crants remembered.
Crants’ team, including VU dual CNM/FNP student Maria Barbagallo, RN and Lipscomb student pharmacist D.B. Byler, M.S., set out to educate patients on common vaccines in five-minute meetings. Though more investigation is needed, the team’s preliminary data suggested that such interventions helped increase vaccine compliance overall.
“Each one of us is passionate about the clinic and our patients,” Barbagallo said. “It was incredibly hard walking out on our last day. There was also a sense of pride because we were able to reach 90% of our patient population and educate them on common vaccine myths.
For Byler, the student pharmacist on the team, the two-year VPIL experience has deeply impacted her perspective on her calling.
“This experience has completely changed the way I look at patient care,” Byler said. “Working together closely to help these patients has improved their patient care without a doubt.”
As the groups gathered one final time to present their Capstone projects, the interdisciplinary and interpersonal bonds formed through two years of VPIL work were evident, even over Zoom.
“It was bittersweet to say goodbye to this incredible group of people but I know they will go on to do great things that advance patient care,” Rahman said.