A Study of Patient Response to Student Interdisciplinary Team Care
This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the First Annual Interdisciplinary Teams in Primary Care Conference, which took place May 3-5, 1979 in Seattle, Washington. It is reproduced here with the permission of the authors.
Evaluation and research on innovative projects such as student interdisciplinary health care teams are difficult to conduct for a variety of reasons. First, most demonstration projects have, as their primary aim, the creation and establishment of a particular innovation. Since funding is generally limited, evaluation and research often are given a low priority. Second, the kinds of persons who start or are attracted to such pioneering projects tend to be visionaries or "missionaries" (Baldwin and Baldwin, 1979). While energy and enthusiasm are essential elements in establishing and disseminating innovative concepts, such persons frequently do not have the careful and considered skills of researchers, who are committed to long-term goals. Third, the very enthusiasm of pioneers often sets up a "we-they" mentality which precludes objective internal evaluation of the impact of the program. Fourth, such projects are frequently carried out before appropriate hypotheses are posed. Indeed, they usually are at the stage of attempting to define the questions, rather than to answer them. This is certainly true about health team training, which still does not have an adequate theory base and has not to date been satisfactorily evaluated from either the educational or clinical standpoint. Finally, since such programs are often engaged in an evolving or rapid growth process, the system seldom "holds still" long enough to be satisfactorily studied and measured.
The Interdisciplinary Health Team Training Program, sponsored by the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs of the Bureau of Health Manpower in 1975, was no exception. Efforts to stimulate and establish the concept of interdisciplinary health team training in a variety of health centers with modest budgetary resources necessarily limited the amount of money available for evaluation and research in this area. In addition, the short funding period (three years) made it difficult, if not impossible, for fundees to design, conduct and complete meaningful evaluation and research on their individual efforts. Despite these limitations, the proposal of the Interdisciplinary Team Training and Curriculum (Team-TRAC) Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, specifically budgeted resources and personnel for this purpose and a research team was established shortly after funding in 1975 (Thornton,et al., 1979).
From the beginning of the Team-TRAC Program, there was intense interest in how patients would react to care from student health care teams. The purpose of the patient research project was to determine satisfaction with the student team experience and to have patients describe and evaluate their perceptions of the team care. Two methods were used: Patient Interviews and Questionnaires, and Interaction Analysis of patient-team interaction.