Faculty, Alumni Authors of New Book Practice What They Preach

Thursday, April 26, 2018
Physical therapy students provide care for a patient

A new book edited by a Rockhurst University faculty member might just be the first such text of its kind in the emerging field of interprofessional health care education. So naturally, it was a team effort.

Pediatric Therapy: An Interprofessional Framework for Practice was edited by Catherine Thompson, Ph.D., professor of physical therapy. The process began three years ago, when she was commissioned to write a book about pediatric care.

“I was going to be the sole author of the book, but I decided it would be a better book if I incorporated different viewpoints and colleagues from other disciplines,” she said.

Interprofessionalism in practice is nothing new to health care — providers from different disciplines have long worked together for their patients. The difference illustrated by this new text, Thompson said, is the effort to make that practice a part of every health care providers’ education from the start.

“This is now a competency that is expected,” she said. “We want students to embrace interprofessionalism from the beginning, instead of having to evolve.”

True to that spirit, Thompson early on decided to include chapters from faculty across disciplines who specialize in pediatric care, many of them current or former faculty or alumni of Rockhurst University. The associate editors for the book were Ketti Coffelt, OTD, associate professor of occupational therapy, and Pam Hart, Ph.D., associate professor of communication sciences and disorders. Contributions for individual chapters came from former faculty members Carol Koch, Ed.D., and Lynn Drazinski, M.A.; Grace McConnell, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, and Joan Delahunt, OTD, assistant professor of occupational therapy; and alumnae Brandi Dorton, and Stephanie Orr, both ’09 DPT.

The approach not only lived up to the spirit of the book, but Thompson said it gave newer faculty a chance to lend their expertise to the creation of a book-length project. Coffelt said putting the book together was an educational experience in its own right.

“This was different than anything else I had done before,” she said. “We met nearly every day to work on the book, and I learned a lot through that process.”

When it comes to the subject of interprofessionalism, Rockhurst University faculty make for great authors. Students in the health care fields at the University have several joint projects, including partnerships with local schools to provide occupational therapy and speech-language therapy. Students from the physical therapy program even take part in simulated patient training alongside students from Research College of Nursing.

The chapters in the book touch on different aspects of those experiences — everything from interprofessional communication to cultural competency to managing individual cases across professions. Despite the wide-ranging subject matter, putting everything together was much easier, Coffelt said, than she expected.

“When you work in pediatrics, you get to know your team members, so it was really pretty easy to collaborate, because we’ve done it that way for a long time,” she said. “We think kind of the same way, in our own disciplines, but the goal is the same for families and students.”

That goal is a better outcome for the patient. Thompson points to the dedication page in the book, which contains a quote from the late comedienne Gilda Radner about “delicious ambiguity,” or the idea that problems don’t always have simple solutions or neat endings. But by approaching interprofessional care with an eye toward critical thinking, Thompson said she hopes that future pediatric health care providers gain the tools to tackle any issue, together.

“Health care is a safety net that requires all of us to be engaged fully, cooperatively, and collaboratively,” she said.