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Building Collaborative Futures: Interprofessional Case Competitions and Communities of Practice

Gao Vang

Interprofessional case competitions provide a dynamic, team-based experience for health science learners, presenting complex questions that challenge interdisciplinary groups to solve problems by leveraging their diverse roles, strengths, skills, and perspectives. These experiences empower students to design solutions or innovations that address needs at various levels—individual patients, organizations, systems, and communities. Despite their varied focuses, these competitions share common threads that support interprofessional education competencies and foster relationship-building among students through teamwork, communication, and problem-solving.

At the University, several notable case competitions exemplify this collaborative approach:

Leveraging Communities of Practice for Interprofessional Collaboration

In the evolving landscape of health sciences education, fostering collaboration and interprofessionalism is crucial for preparing future health care professionals. A powerful model for interprofessional collaboration among learners is demonstrated when the facilitators of case competitions collaborate themselves. The Center for Health Interprofessional Programs (CHIP) and the Minnesota Northstar Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (MN GWEP) exemplify this by jointly recruiting and promoting their respective case competitions through a community of practice. This framework brings together individuals with shared interests or passions, fostering collaboration and learning. 

Members of a community of practice engage in regular interactions to share experiences, collectively develop their knowledge, solve problems, exchange ideas, and contribute to the community's overall growth and development. CHIP and MN GWEP’s community of practice models collaborative practice for both students and colleagues.

“With CLARION student leaders, they might come to advisors for development of the event, and we bring those questions to the community of practice. We all learn from one another to build collective knowledge and do our work more effectively. We are actively working against a culture of individuals as experts and siloed learning experiences. With limited resources, the tendency might be to compete for student participants or for resources, but instead we have shared and collaborated,” said Laura Dammer Hess, director of CHIP. “The community of practice model for practitioners and educators enriches the case competition experience for learners.” 

“Our geriatrics education program started in 2019, whereas CLARION has been successfully hosting case competitions since 2003 with universities from across the country. We came to this partnership with much to learn, and gratitude for CLARION leaders’ willingness to share,” said Teresa Schicker, MPA, program manager for MN GWEP.  “Each year the geriatric case competition grows in size, interprofessionalism, and complexity. We’ve transformed from planning a smaller in-person competition to an all-virtual multi-campus inter-university event. As our program expands, we benefit from the advice and encouragement of our colleagues at CLARION.” 

Enhancing Communication and Teamwork Through Simulation

CHIP has also collaborated with M Simulation for a second year in a row to develop case scenarios for learners to practice role playing and build team-based communication skills ahead of the CLARION case competition. 

“This is an inspiring and fun collaboration, and I'm looking forward to next year’s competition. I think it's indicative of the fact that simulation can, and does, grow in different areas. I'm so glad Laura reached out, because it's turned into one of my favorite collaborations of the year,” said Lou Clark, PhD, MFA, executive director for M Simulation. 

The 19th annual CLARION National Interprofessional Case Competition included 11 teams from universities across the country with a total of 47 students representing different health care professions. Students presented their analysis and implementation plans that reflect how to prepare and respond effectively to an arising pandemic.

Held in M Simulation within the Health Sciences Education Center, the simulation experience had two components over the course of the afternoon prior to the Clarion competition day. Clark led learners through a communication skills workshop focused on building relationships in clinical settings and beyond—these skills are both translatable and demonstrated through the case competition, and also reflect core interprofessional competencies that are at the heart of communities of practice. Students also got to practice a simulated case with simulated patients designed specifically for them to prepare for the CLARION competition.

“Collaboration with M Simulation on the CLARION Competition has been transformative for the learning experience of the participants,” said Dammer Hess. “Now, not only do students get to dive into the case and problem-solve with their teams, they also get to practice communication skills in real-time with students from across the country. The M Simulation team brings their deep expertise in communication grounded in health care practice, and they provide a fun and engaging workshop for the students. It really welcomes participants to the experience and helps them build community for the weekend.”


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