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Nursing and social work students learning to work together at UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington's College of Nursing and School of Social Work will use nearly $900,000 during the next three years to fund research to improve connections between nurses and social workers before they meet in the health care workplace.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration recently awarded an $862,532 Advanced Nursing Education Grant to Judy LeFlore, a professor and interim associate dean for research of the UT Arlington College of Nursing. The funding reflects the growing popularity of interprofessional education and the important role social workers and nurses play in treating patients holistically, she said.

"There is a realization from the federal government all the way down to academia that education of health care professionals in silos is not very effective or efficient. We need to shift the task of learning to work together as a team to the education end, rather than the service end," LeFlore said.

LeFlore will work with School of Social Work professors Gail Adorno and Joan Blakey as well as fellow nursing professors Mindi Anderson, Patricia Thomas and Sharolyn Dihigo and clinical instructors Lindy Moake and Sara Moore.

Beginning in Fall 2013 and again in Fall 2014, about 40 graduate students, from the School of Social Work and the pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner program, will be selected for the grant program. They'll work together in small groups for the next year to come up with care plans for selected case studies. Professors will teach the students about each profession's roles and responsibilities, distinct professional values, as well as identifying barriers to teamwork between social workers and nurses in the workplace.

"There aren't many models for how to teach nurses and social workers to work collaboratively. Yet, great working relationships between nurses and social workers translates into patients receiving better, more comprehensive care," Adorno said. "This initiative with nursing will allow us to develop a unique model of interprofessional education enhanced by technology in a specific practice setting neonatal and pediatric health care."

In addition to in-person collaboration, the student teams will use the virtual world of Second Life to meet and work together on projects. They'll also work through simulations with computerized patients in UT Arlington's Smart Hospital , a state-of-the-art clinical lab with 32 high-tech simulation stations. The program also will have a service-learning component, which will include volunteer work at SafeHaven of Tarrant County, a domestic violence shelter with locations in Arlington and Fort Worth.

LeFlore and the research team hope to use what they learn to design a course on team dynamics for social work and nursing graduate students to take together in the future. They believe the model they establish could be applied to other areas of care, such as the growing field of geriatrics.


Contact: Traci Peterson
University of Texas at Arlington

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