Like the times of Bob Dylan, education is changing. Universidad Europea’s strong commitment to interprofessional education shows there can be no slowing down or turning back. “It’s a large global movement that aims to provide graduates in the health sector with the competencies and skills they need to adapt to the vertiginous changes of the teamwork model. It aims to help them lead this change as part of a collaborative practice that benefits patients,” reflects Juanjo Beunza, Associate Professor of Public Health and Interprofessional Education and Expert Professor for the Interprofessional Education Plan at the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Health at Universidad Europea. “Designing the plan hasn’t been easy and has taken years,” he acknowledges, but “we are extremely satisfied with our achievements and the benefits this will bring for our students.” The importance of interprofessional education is also stressed by the faculty’s Academic Director, Eva Icarán: “the WHO and its Latin American division, PAHO, promote interprofessional education programs in health schools and faculties. A few weeks ago, Juanjo Beunza and I were invited to the launch of this transformation at a Ministry of Health working group in Brazil to share our experience.” Icarán explains how interprofessional education occurs when students on different courses interact in the classroom and learn together. “It also covers the knowledge and analysis of real-world situations, focusing on developing skills such as communication, handling authority and performing different roles in multidisciplinary teams. These are the challenges students will encounter when they begin their career.” The model, which is backed by international organizations, adapts the university to the real world, putting it squarely in the service of the complex and exciting workplace that awaits outside of the world of education. “Interprofessional education’s collaborative approach is not just optional, it’s essential, in our case putting the wellbeing of patients first. It’s about being able to provide the best possible healthcare,” explains Icarán.
Versatility, skills and teamwork
The challenge we face in terms of innovation, both in style and substance, is undeniable. To facilitate interprofessional education, the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Health at Universidad Europea launched a hospital simulator in 2016. The carefully designed facility replicates a real hospital with clinical cases that need to be treated by “future healthcare professionals, including doctors, pharmacists, nurses, psychologists and physiotherapists,” explains Ana María Fernández, who is in charge of the simulator. “It’s a highly versatile unit where activities for different degree programs can be carried out together in the same space,” just like in everyday clinical practice. The range of different areas in this realistic infrastructure include “hospitalization, consultations, a hospital pharmacy, a skills zone and procedures or rooms for complex simulations, replicating the spaces of a real hospital, such as accident and emergency, operating rooms, intensive care and delivery rooms, and the spaces can be modified for different activities and learning objectives.” The idea is to provide a faithful reconstruction of the workplace without having to leave the campus. The facility presents an exclusive opportunity for multidisciplinary teams to spend time working side-by-side, a requirement of modern practice, which is undergoing radical change.
Teaching quality, theory and practice
Universidad Europea aims to provide the best possible theoretical teaching while developing core competencies and skills for the workplace. This is precisely the aim of interprofessional education, whose ideas are not only confined to healthcare. José María Peredo, Full Professor of International Communication and Politics and director of Europea Media, the UE media clinic, emphasizes the “significant experience built up over two decades providing practical education to students, the creation and use of media simulation environments as well as a clear trend for hands-on learning over the last five years.” Indeed, Europea Media boasts its own digital newspaper (Europea News), radio station (Europea Radio), television channel (Europea TV), specialist international policy magazine (Observatorio), translation agency (Traducción Solidaria) and advertising agency (Europeads). This suite of media outlets creates synergies, stimulates creativity and facilitates collaborative working. “The group participates through classes that link the practical aspects to voluntary laboratories through a long-term regular task, allowing students to opt for freely chosen credits. We’re also open to international students and the different faculties at the university,” explains Peredo, who believes the system to be unique and enriching. All this makes Europea Media another example of interprofessional education, “a pioneer among media labs and university media. It also leads the Spanish Association of University Radio Stations and is involved in innovation and research projects,” adds Peredo..
“It makes you feel useful in the world”
And what are students’ views on these multidisciplinary projects? “Meeting students from other disciplines doesn’t just enrich you with experience of different areas, it also helps you relate to them. This is possible thanks to projects like Formula UEM,” remarks Asen Lyubenov, who, in addition to Electronic Manager, was captain of the Formula UEM team, the university’s largest student club, for the 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 academic years. Lyubenov explains how the three key aspects (mission, vision and values) required strong teamwork and resulted in more effective networking. The Formula UEM mission was to “design and build a competition car that could compete in international events with universities from across the world”. Its vision was to be able to “achieve top positions in any competition”. Finally, its values were “being passionate about the world of motor sport and never giving up.” These are inclusive aims that encompass all students and thus multiply the possibility of success. In this case, the roles relate to the technical tasks associated with the features of such a special car, in addition to marketing, event management, logistics and communication. “This enriches academic experience since students bring the knowledge they learn to their classes. The best thing for big challenges is learning. Seeing the usefulness of what you have learned makes you feel useful in the world,” remarks a confident Asen. Interprofessional education definitely helps foster this feeling. Fabricio Santos is director of the Design, Art and Digital Content Area at the School of Architecture, Engineering and Design at Universidad Europea Madrid and responsible for the Handsthinking art and technology festival that takes place in spring. The roots of the festival come from the Design Week and its name is inspired by the initiative’s interdisciplinary nature. “It encourages participation in interdisciplinary workshops and conferences given by renowned specialists, often alumni who have gone on to have successful careers.” Once again, we can see the cornerstone of this new approach to teaching: interprofessional education. “The strong bonds between students and teachers on different degree programs are the greatest contribution of this interdisciplinary activity,” remarks Santos. Students are the main driving force behind the festival, “a hectic week guaranteed to take participants out of their comfort zones.”
Integration is the key to success, just like the skills that favor adaptation to constant change, both essential aspects of being ready to face the jobs of the future. At Universidad Europea, interprofessional education, described by Professor Beunza a “large global movement”, has become a reality.
Moreover, it’s one that is here to stay, helping us face the future with more determination than ever.