The Interprofessional Health Clinic at St. Ambrose University is a very special place (okay, maybe I say that with a little bias). However, what I can say for a fact is that what happens in this clinic is unique in the world of university-based pro bono clinics. The reason for this is both the number of services offered and the way that we provide these services to our patients.
We are lucky enough at the Interprofessional Health Clinic to be able to offer patients Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, and Social Work, as these are all programs within the College of Health and Human Services. The really unique part is that the goal of our therapy services is to administer the treatment that a patient needs as an interprofessional team. What that means from an evaluation and treatment planning standpoint is that all disciplines work together to come up with common, interdisciplinary goals that primarily address a patient’s personal goals and impairments. The teams of students then brainstorm creative ways to address the patient’s goals and impairments within one collaborative treatment as much as possible. If a patient is not appropriate for services from all disciplines, the goals will be focused on the areas that the patient has impairments. The students from the disciplines not directly providing services typically still attend the treatment sessions, as the observation contributes to the students’ interprofessional learning.
The example that I often use to illustrate this model is a patient with a goal to independently prepare a meal. During evaluation, the patient’s treatment team may have measured deficits in dynamic standing balance, safety awareness, naming objects, and following two-step directions. Given these impairments and the patient’s goal, the treatment session would focus on meal preparation in the kitchen. The student physical therapist can instruct the patient on standing at the counter and reaching to challenge dynamic balance, the student occupational therapist can focus on kitchen safety and steps for meal preparation, and the student speech language pathologist can work with the patient on naming food and kitchen items and following two-step directions. If this patient also had needs for equipment or respite services for home, while the patient was in their therapy session their caregiver may be working with the student social worker in order to find resources.
This format provides invaluable learning experiences for our students in terms of working with professionals in other disciplines, and gives our patients what some people may think is the ideal way to receive therapy services tailored to their functional goals and needs. However, the challenge that we have run into since the clinic’s creation in 2016 (and one that I personally have noticed since the creation of our Student Board one year ago) is that it is hard to get our mission and service format across to our potential community referral sources.
Something we are striving toward is increasing our identity in the community, because we know that the need exists. The Interprofessional Health Clinic has the capability to address many of the therapy deficits in our community for patients, regardless of if they are uninsured, underinsured, have therapy copays that are not financially sustainable, have run out of therapy benefits, or many other barriers encountered throughout the Quad City region. We have seen the impact of our services through each of the patients we have had the privilege to treat, and we are constantly striving to increase this impact by getting our community members and healthcare providers to see the same potential that we see.
-Colleen Persaud, SPT
Clinic Coordinator, St. Ambrose University Interprofessional Health Clinic