Interdisciplinary collaboration may sound like a big phrase, but the concept likely is already familiar to you. All it really means is pooling knowledge and resources of people with different educational backgrounds in order to improve outcomes. Ever work on a group project where each person’s unique talents and skills made everything come together? Boom — you’ve engaged in interdisciplinary collaboration. Whether your future goals include providing exceptional patient care or launching an innovative business, using your internship as a time to practice interdisciplinary communication can help prepare you to hit the ground running.
Nervous about where to start? Here are three suggestions for forging connections and setting the tone for effective interdisciplinary collaboration during your internship.
Ask to Shadow Other Practitioners
Depending on the work environment, speech therapists, wound care nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, teachers, public relations managers, coordinators and technicians may be accessible. Let them know you are curious about their job and would love to spend some time with them if they are willing. Many will be flattered and the worst thing they can say is no! The more you understand about other roles, the more effective you will be at knowing who to contact when something outside your scope of practice arises.
Ask Questions and Offer Contributions
Whether in hospital rounds, meetings or even waiting in line for your morning coffee in the cafeteria, have the courage to introduce yourself, ask a question that has been on your mind or share an observation you think might be important. Many of us carry the “I’m just an intern” mindset when, in truth, we actually have a lot to offer. Asking a nurse how a specific ventilator operates or suggesting to a physician that a patient may benefit from targeted vitamin supplementation can encourage these disciplines to view you as a fellow team member who is intelligent and engaged.
Make Yourself Visible
Some environments tend to encourage holing up in a windowless cubicle or office — fight the urge! Spend as much time as you can on hospital floors, walking by offices, in the cafeteria or other public spaces where your coworkers spend time. Attend meetings and rounds even if they are not a requirement. This will offer you more opportunities to interact and engage.
While those interning in a large academic medical center may already have plenty of contact with pharmacists, residents, fellows, physicians and nurses, dietetic interns in community hospitals or other settings may have to work a little harder to make these connections. Still, if you put in the time and effort to practice interdisciplinary interaction, your confidence and communication skills will grow and make you even more competitive for whatever job you pursue following your internship.