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Kline Law and College of Nursing and Health Professions Students Gain Hands-on, Interdisciplinary Experience with Patient Safety Simulation

In photo (L-R): 3L Shelby Boyle Stephanie Moyer (College of Nursing and Health Professions); Professor Erica Springer; Professor David Hoffman; 2L Kelly Porter

From left to right: 3L Shelby Boyle, Stephanie Moyer (College of Nursing and Health Professions), Professor Erica Springer, Professor David Hoffman and 2L Kelly Porter.

December 15, 2021

Kline Law Professor David Hoffman knows the importance of real-world experience. For the past three years, he’s given law students in his “Regulating Patient Safety” class the opportunity to see firsthand some of the challenges of patient safety. He’s done this by creating a simulation with Professor Erica Springer, whose nurse practitioner (NP) students from her class “Management and Care of the Complex Gynecologic and Gender Related Issues throughout the Lifespan” also participate.

During the simulation, which was held on November 9 at the College of Nursing and Health Professions, law students observed nurse practitioner students as they engaged in complex patient cases with specially trained individuals playing the role of patients.

One of the cases involved a patient who, in the course of the appointment, revealed a history of abuse and possible mental health issues. The NP students had to determine how best to respond to these disclosures, especially given that the patient’s appointment related to a medical concern not directly connected to these issues. The second case involved a patient who had been advised by her healthcare provider that her test results were normal, when in fact, they raised significant health concerns, thereby necessitating disclosure of an error and an apology to the patient.

“This event offers law students a unique opportunity to experience challenging patient interactions related to informed consent, error disclosure and apologies for mistakes that have transpired,” said Hoffman. Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of the event, according to Springer, who directs the Women’s Health/Gender-Related Nurse Practitioner Track at the College of Nursing and Health Professions, allows students to “gain a real-life view into the roles we each play in achieving our common goal, patient safety.”

After each session ended, students and faculty came together for a debrief discussion. “I was able to see firsthand practitioners’ split-second verbal and nonverbal communication, including empathy, and how the legal field approaches such communication,” said 2L Kelly Porter, who is a JD-Master of Public Health student. “When I was watching the practitioners, I was keenly aware of what they should and should not do, and there were times where I wondered how I would react in the same scenario as the practitioner knowing what I know about the law.”

Overall, the simulation allowed students not only to connect with one another individually, but also to gain a better understanding of the importance of healthcare providers listening to patients and responding accordingly. The lessons learned also included how law students can better protect patient safety throughout their career, whether they end up in a law firm, a clinic or other setting.

“I think this opportunity highlighted just how meaningful cross-disciplinary experiences are to our academic lives,” said Zoe Sivak, who is also a student in the JD-Master of Public Health program. “Getting to apply my own understanding from a health law perspective to future clinicians (and vice versa) was a thrill—especially given that I want to work in a clinical environment.”