Enhancing Care in Nursing Education through Multidisciplinary Collaboration

McClelland, Molly


Purpose:  Physical disabilities affect millions of people living throughout the United States.  The US Federal Government passed the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1988.  Increasing the availability of assistive technology as well as the capacity to provide technology-related assistive devices were two objectives of the federal act.  This presentation will describe how a Nursing Professor and an Engineering Professor took this need, created a unique learning experience and combined the unique skill sets of their students to improve the lives of people in need.  Caring is taught, learned and implemented through this innovative multidisciplinary approach.


Background / Significance:   Multidisciplinary collaboration in higher education has the potential to create fertile grounds for learning caring beyond that of a single discipline approach.   Additionally, effective collaboration can yield results which significantly impact human lives.  This presentation or poster will describe an innovative multidisciplinary collaborative effort between two university colleges; nursing and engineering designed to care for the physical needs of disabled persons in the community. 


Students learning styles are changing rapidly with the new millennium and global community.  Educators must be prepared to teach to the new millennium in order to engage students and better meet the health care needs of the communities we serve.  Specifically nursing professors must find ways to inspire and stimulate their students to learn and use the knowledge they’ve gained to provide care to their clients.  This innovative multidisciplinary educational approach effectively meets those needs.


Description / Method:  One goal of our collaborative course is to show care by ameliorating challenges faced by physically disabled individuals in our community from an interdisciplinary approach.  Another goal is to help meet program and university curriculum objectives for our students such as improving communication, demonstrating caring behaviors and collaboration skills.  A third objective of this multidisciplinary course is to enhance the education of our students in order to graduate professional, ethical, caring,  intelligent and team focused individuals able to effectively improve the lives of others. 


Teams of nursing students and engineering students work together on projects to build assistive devices that improve the lives of people in need.  People with physical disabilities are identified from organizations such as the Detroit Veterans Administration Hospital, Michigan Rehabilitation Institute, Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Association, and personal contacts.  Clients are approached and assessed to determine their physical limitations and what they’d like built in order to improve their physical condition.  The nursing students utilize their knowledge to ensure the devices are medically safe and that all team members are educated on the specific disability and its ramifications to the individual.  The engineering students design and build the devices to enhance the lives of the disabled person.  Several interactions take place between the client and the multidisciplinary student team while the device is being designed and built in order to assure accuracy, safety, and exactness of the device to fulfill the need. This presentation/poster will describe the techniques, goals, objectives, and outcomes used in our multidisciplinary collaborative baccalaureate education.  Examples of specific projects and clients will be given.  In addition, the impact of the multidisciplinary collaborative experience for both the students and the clients will be described.  The multidisciplinary teams work caringly and collaboratively in this unique educational experience enhancing their learning while improving the lives of others.


Evaluation and Outcomes:  At the completion of the multidisciplinary course, it is expected that the following outcomes will be achieved:


  1. Students will state an improved understanding of how to show care to people in need by utilizing their unique skill sets to help physically disabled people.
  2. Engineering and nursing students will identify needs in the community and recognize ways to show care.
  3. The nursing and engineering faculty will create unique multidisciplinary educational approaches by instructing students how to ameliorating identified needs.
  4. Students will state an enhancement of their nursing education because of multidisciplinary experiences.
  5. Students will describe the impact the multidisciplinary course had in expanding knowledge of how to provide care to people in need.


Conclusions:  Our innovative multidisciplinary collaborative course has been very effective in teaching and showing care.  Both the students and the physically disable people learn how to give or receive care in ways that otherwise would not have been possible.  The nursing and engineering students have stated that the course had a positive impact on their realization of the needs of people in the community and how their unique skill sets can be used to ameliorate those needs.  The students have also verbalized an improved understanding of the need for multidisciplinary efforts and its impact on showing care to those in need.  Both the engineering students and the nursing students have stated an enhanced understanding of the others’ discipline and have expressed a desire to work with other disciplines as a means to improving care.  Multidisciplinary educational programs can be a powerful way for nursing to train other disciplines in the art of caring by collaborating with them to achieve common goals.  In addition, lives of physically disabled people in our local community have been positively impacted because two very different disciplines have learned to work together to show care.