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Nursing, Medical Students Partner on Interdisciplinary Care to Needy

   August 24, 2010

We know that interdisciplinary care is in patients' best interests. We also know it can be hard for professionals from various healthcare disciplines to work together.

Physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and all the other professions that participate in patient care are educated in very different ways. It can be difficult for each group to understand where the others are coming from. It's no surprise that sometimes interdisciplinary care does not go as smoothly as patients—or providers—would like.

Which is why an innovative program at Florida International University is attempting to teach providers how to work together, while at the same time benefiting the local community, in a program called Green Family NeighborhoodHELP™. The university is partnering students from multiple healthcare disciplines in an outreach project to bring healthcare to families in local communities.

A medical student and a nursing student will pair up to visit one or two uninsured or underinsured families in local neighborhoods. The students will work with those families to identify health and social needs, and bring in students from disciplines such as social work as needed.

Sharon Pontious, interim dean and professor at the College of Nursing & Health Sciences at FIU explains that a first or second year medical student will partner with a junior or senior nursing student from the bachelor of science nursing program. The students will visit the families regularly and follow them over an extended period of time. When medical students reach their third year, they will continue to follow the families, but partner with an advanced practice nursing student, such as someone a nurse practitioner.

"All of these families have agreed to be teaching families," says Pontious. "In addition to that, in every neighborhood there are an equivalent number of families who will act as control families and will not have students visiting them."

Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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