Matt Schorr
August 20, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. In order to remain current, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance’s (MVA) inter-institutional, Interprofessional Education (IPE) Student Project was already in the middle of a transition. Under the leadership of MVA Program Manager Jessica Jones, MS, the project was shifting toward an “escape experience,” an immersive and interactive exercise designed to challenge students’ problem-solving skills while also promoting team-building.

COVID-19 forced the project to evolve even more. It created new challenges for Jones, IPE faculty and students, but they were challenges the groups were ready to tackle.

“There was no apprehension in it,” Jones recalled. “It was just, ‘How do we do it?’”

 

‘Amazing to watch’

What began as a team-building exercise that brought students and faculty together in a single room became a digital experience utilizing online virtual meeting platforms. “We did an escape game last year,” IPE Co-Director and Meharry Medical College (MMC) Associate Professor of Medical Education Regina Stokes Offodile, MD noted. “Then, we discussed the best approach and concept to construct and make work in a virtual setting.”

She credited the effort as a team effort that was “really amazing to watch.”

Fellow IPE Co-Director and Senior Associate Dean for Academics at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing Mavis N. Schorn, CNM, PhD, FACNM echoed those sentiments.

“Even without the onset of COVID, I think this is a natural progression for clinical education,” she said. “Especially with the advent of things like telehealth and the expanded capacity for virtual meetings.”

 

‘Increased communication’

“The challenge was keeping all parties engaged during the process,” Jones explained. “Just thinking, ‘How do you keep the experience interactive without the physical presence of a traditional escape game?’”

As it happened, the digital experience might’ve heightened interactivity.

“Our pilot revealed from student feedback that it increased the amount of communication,” Jones said.

 

‘Very, very honest’

The scenario involves a child in need of resources to get back in school. The child faces several obstacles, including family issues, and the students work together to overcome them.

“The students were very, very honest,” Jones commented. “They even commended our faculty in that they felt so welcome to provide honest critical feedback.”

Thus far, Jones and IPE faculty have launched two pilot projects, and they intend to implement suggestions from both in the future.

 

About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.