Allied health professionals see greater interdisciplinary emphasis

Medical treatment has evolved so a multidisciplinary team approach is the norm, not the aberration. That change is reflected at the ATS International Conference, where more allied health professionals are attending and more sessions for them are offered.

“We really are emphasizing the development of interprofessional relationships because we work in teams in clinical practice, and we are beginning to do much more interdisciplinary research,” said Lynn Reinke, ARNP, PhD, general practice nurse, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Washington, Seattle. “This meeting offers a variety of symposia and forums to learn about integrated research, and we also are developing more symposia that incorporate interdisciplinary representation. It’s really a way to translate the research into clinical practice in a practical way that can benefit our patients.”

The change is also reflected in the publication of the conference’s Interprofessional Conference Guide, which highlights sessions of interest to nonphysicians.

“This identifies more clinically relevant sessions of interest to nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and other allied health professionals. Certainly a physician could use this guide as well, but we thought it would be a more concise way of identifying interdisciplinary type of symposia,” said Dr. Reinke, who is incoming chair of the ATS Assembly on Nursing.

Ellen Hillegass, DrPH, a physical therapist at North Georgia College and State University, Atlanta, said she appreciates the emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach over the past five years and how it has helped her in practice.

“We treat a lot of pulmonary fibrosis, and I couldn’t understand why so many people have pulmonary fibrosis,” she said. “I went to a session that was very interesting, where they talked about the etiology of a lot of the pulmonary fibrosis, which makes sense to me now because we are seeing an uptick in it.”

Other sessions Dr. Hillegass has attended have focused on mobility in critical care and treatment of patients after lung transplantation.

“I get a lot out of these different talks, besides all of the research. I also go to the research posters, and I presented a poster,” she said. “I’ve been involved in the ATS for about five years, and I’ve seen them try to get more interdisciplinary people here, but they are still trying to figure out how. It’s a learning process.”

William Prentice, RN, BSN, a nurse at Harbor Regional Center, Irvine, Calif., also has seen a greater interdisciplinary approach in his many years attending the conference.

“COPD is my biggest interest because for 20 years I’ve worked with a lot of discharges of people who had been on ventilators,” he said. “There are many good sessions here on COPD and ventilators, so I am excited to go to them.”