TeamSTEPPS Training Teaches Health Sciences Students Vital Collaboration Skills

Health science students in training environment.

UB health sciences students participate in a TeamSTEPPS training session March 11 in the Behling Simulation Center.

Published March 23, 2022

story by david j. hill

“Anesthesia stat, 704.” With that, a team of UB health sciences students rushes in to begin administering care to a patient.

The sound — recorded from the halls of Erie County Medical Center — was piped into the Behling Simulation Center in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and the patient was a mannequin. But the students treated the scenario seriously, as if it was real.

They were taking part in a TeamSTEPPS training program offered through UB’s Office of Interprofessional Education. TeamSTEPPS is a set of communication strategies and tools developed by the Department of Defense’s Patient Safety Program and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), with the goal of improving the quality and safety of patient care. The program was developed in response to reports that a majority of medical errors are caused by a breakdown in communication.

Over the course of two Fridays (March 11 and 18), 89 UB and Canisius College health professions students, representing seven different health care professions, participated in the multistep program. The training took students through a series of online modules and small group role play; then, they applied the tools to realistic clinical situations in the Behling Simulation Center.

The training reinforced the meaning and importance of interprofessional education, says Amy Trieu, who will graduate from the School of Nursing in May.

“Health care is a team effort, and working closely with other health care professionals allowed us to gain mutual respect and understanding of one another’s roles,” Trieu says. “Our goal as health care professionals is to provide high-quality, patient-centered care. Through these interprofessional experiences, I feel better equipped to work closely with my future colleagues to ensure we reach this common goal with every patient.”

And that’s exactly the point, says Kelly Foltz-Ramos, director of simulation and an assistant professor in the School of Nursing who led the program along with co-lead Kenneth Snyder, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery, radiology and neurology in the Jacobs School and vice president for physician quality at Kaleida Health. Snyder also practices at UB Neurosurgery, part of UBMD.

“A strength of the UB IPE TeamSTEPPS program is that we have partnered with clinicians from Kaleida Health to facilitate sessions, allowing facilitators to role model collaborating with other health professionals and also helping students to understand the tremendous value these skills will provide in the clinical setting,” Foltz-Ramos says.

“Over the years, UB has been a leader in integrating interprofessional education into the curriculum of health professions programs. Adding the TeamSTEPPS educational program will reinforce our ability to develop patient-centered health care providers armed with powerful communication tools to enhance patient safety,” Foltz-Ramos adds.

“This new program is exciting because the TeamSTEPPS education the health sciences students will be receiving will contribute to improved patient care and reduced medical error,” says Patricia Ohtake, assistant vice president for interprofessional education and associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science, School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“Another important aspect of this program is that UB is collaborating with Kaleida Health to educate our students,” Ohtake adds. “This collaboration between the UB Office of Interprofessional Education and Kaleida Health strengthens not only the students’ education, but also the development of a health care workforce with high-quality communication and teamwork skills.”

Dhara Kadakia, a fourth-year medical student in the Jacobs School, says the training provided her the collaboration skills and tools necessary to navigate the challenges of health care as a future physician. “I deeply believe that a collaborative approach to medicine and patient care is critical to providing the best outcomes,” Kadakia says.

“This training was invaluable in teaching me to be a strong collaborator,” she says, adding that because of the training, she feels “empowered to work efficiently with other health care providers to provide optimal care to my patients.”

The TeamSTEPPS training helped Jimmy Jin, a second-year physical therapy student from the School of Public Health and Health Professions, better understand that while various health professionals might be looking for different things when treating a patient, collaboration still remains vital.

“For my specific simulation case, I learned that as a PT, I might have concern about a patient’s functional movement, but for physicians, their main focuses are on the blood pressure, heart and lung functions,” Jinsays. “The patient might be able to meet the discharge criteria from a physician perspective, but it might not be a safe discharge from a PT’s point of view. Communication is the key for a team.”

Starting in fall 2022, the UB IPE TeamSTEPPS Program will be required for approximately 550 UB health professions students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dietetics, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

The impact of this program is substantial, Ohtake says. “By graduating over 500 health professions students each year that have these patient safety communication skills, this program has the potential to improve health care delivery in Western New York.”