Interprofessional Emergency Training: Pre-work Makes the Team Work

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A hospital patient goes into cardiac arrest. A code blue medical emergency is called, sending physicians, nurses and others racing to the patient’s room.

The code team leader calls out for someone to retrieve supplies, waiting to confirm a response before moving on to the next task. The remaining team members work in tandem to provide the best possible care in the simulated emergency situation. 

This scenario illustrates the Interprofessional Team Critical Incident (ITCI) training that medical and nursing students in UCI’s Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences receive. The hands-on simulation is designed to improve communication and, ultimately, minimize the risk of treatment errors and reduce the time required to make a diagnosis.

The two-hour session is based on Hospital Acute Response training, also referred to as code training, which is offered to UC Irvine Medical Center professionals including medical residents, staff, nursing staff, pharmacy, respiratory therapy, and an occasional student from the School of Nursing or School of Medicine.

“The goal is to understand what the play is and your role in that play. And, to make sure you can communicate.” said Maurice “Mo” Espinoza, MSN, RN, CNS, a critical care clinical nurse specialist for UC Irvine Health Nursing Education.

Espinoza and Cameron Ricks, MD, director of the Medical Education Simulation Center, introduced Hospital Acute Response training to the medical center in 2013. They reasoned that if seasoned professionals could benefit from developing team skills, then perhaps the skills would give students an advantage entering the workforce.

“We took the idea to the acute response committee,” said Ricks. “They were surprised there was no education component already in place. They approved the idea and it’s been a success.”

The Interprofessional Team Critical Incident training for students takes place in a fully-equipped simulated hospital room in UCI’s Medical Education Simulation Center, with state-of-the art technology funded, in part, through corporate philanthropy.

Already, more than 540 Health Sciences students have been through training, including UCI School of Nursing alumna Rebekah Lieu (BSN ’17), who participated in a real life code not long after her training.

 “The training gave me the confidence, skill, and knowledge to be able to play an active role during a code,” said Lieu. “Team members even took notice of my proactivity and preparedness and allowed me to observe and even participate in procedures that I probably wouldn't have been able to participate in if I had not been so well-trained.”

 The School of Nursing has added 128 hours of simulation-type activities to its curriculum, expanding capacity to give students hands-on experiences. The goal is to increase the hours in subsequent years throughout the clinical curriculum.

 “While research demonstrates the importance of healthcare delivered by multiple providers functioning as a cohesive team,” said Clinical Professor Susanne J. Phillips, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, FAANP associate dean of Clinical Affairs and director of the Baccalaureate Program. “Little is done to prepare nurses, physicians, pharmacists, community health experts and others to function together in meaningful ways. By adding simulation activities to our programs, our nursing school stands ready to provide leadership in shifting the paradigm of education silos to team-based education and training within the newly-established Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences.”