Puhaty Speaker Addresses Challenges of Collaboration Among Health Professionals

By Lee Lewis-Husk

Collaboration. Teamwork. It makes sense, right? But it’s not always the norm among health professions in various work and education settings. One nurse sociologist who’s made it her life work to study interprofessional relations believes there’s much room for improvement, for example, when conflicts arise from lack of knowledge, traditional hierarchy, stereotyping, scopes of practice and licensure issues.

Mattie SchmidtMadeline (“Mattie”) Schmitt, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., F.N.A.P. brought that message to Oregon in October as the featured speaker for the Henrietta Doltz Puhaty Annual Lectureship. Schmitt, professor emerita at the University of Rochester, travels the world sharing her knowledge gained from almost 50 years of nursing experience and scholarly research.

“Because we’ve been educated in silos, all health professionals, including nurses, need to think outside our professional boundaries,” she said in an August telephone interview. “We need to begin to think more interprofessionally.”

She tells students in the DNP program at Rochester that what they do in their own work settings to integrate care is what matters most. “Cooperation, coordination, and collaboration – things won’t get better until this happens across the health professions and across settings,” she said.

The Oregon trip connected her with at least one former colleague from Rochester, Judith Baggs, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., who “opened up my thinking about ways to conceptualize team-based care,” Schmitt said. Since the 1990s the two have studied collaborative decision-making in the ICU, still a focus of Baggs’ research today in Oregon.

The “retired” professor is reflective about the national debate on how to best integrate the millions of new people entering the system under the Affordable Care Act.

Primary care is key, but will turf battles among various disciplines and cost arguments scuttle efforts at interprofessional collaboration and partnerships with patients? Schmitt says the question becomes: how do we address turf battles around collaborative teams, and demonstrate cost effectiveness with our eyes on what’s best for the patient?


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