Putting Families First: an Interprofessional Education Program
The Putting Families First (PFF) program is a unique approach to providing pre-clinical health professions students a patient-centered community-based interprofessional collaborative learning experience. PFF has existed for more than twenty years; over 1000 students across 11 academic programs and more than 200 families are involved in this required educational program each year.
Students are placed in interprofessional teams of four and assigned a local volunteer family or individual; their first “patient.” The students make four home visits to learn about the family’s health and in partnership with the family develop a patient-centered health improvement project. Over the years, such projects have included helping individuals obtain a GED, improve eating habits, initiate an exercise routine, start a family garden, or address stress through mindfulness training. Additionally, during six class sessions, four teams of students meet with two interprofessional faculty members to prepare for and debrief their home visits, engage in collaborative discussion about volunteers, and discuss assigned course content relevant to interprofessional teamwork, social determinants of health and access to care. Key to the student teams’ development of projects is working with the family/individuals and addressing what is of value to the family. The family is viewed as a partner as the students learn about collaboration with patients within an interprofessional team context. Student reflections frequently cite how as a student, they realize through the experience that what they believe should be a priority to the family is not and why it is not a priority.
Situated within an interprofessional learning context, PFF provides students a “real world,” community-based experience to explore the health ecology of their volunteer patient or family while developing and implementing an intervention to improve health as a member of a patient-centered interprofessional care team.