A team of four UNC students from different health care-related fields has won the 2015 CLARION National Case Competition, a student competition focused on improving health care through interprofessional collaboration. The victory is especially significant given that this is only the second year that UNC has been represented at the national competition, which has been held annually since 2005.

“I am so proud of our students and encouraged by their commitment to improving quality of care for their patients,” said Carol F. Durham, EdD, RN, ANEF, FAAN clinical professor in the UNC School of Nursing. “I believe this competition is seeding in the next generation of health care providers the skills they will need to be a part of the solutions needed to reform our health care system—including interprofessional collaboration.”

Tackling systemic challenges

The UNC team included, from left, Samantha Cooperstein, Courtney Canter, Lesley Peters and Wen Lin.

The UNC team included, from left, Samantha Cooperstein, Courtney Canter, Lesley Peters and Wen Lin.

The CLARION National Case Competition, run by a University of Minnesota student organization, challenges students to consider systemic ways to increase patient safety. This year’s competition focused on stroke, which is the fourth leading cause of death for adults in the United States and a significant contributor to disability among those who survive.

Each team consists of four students who together represent at least two medically-related disciplines such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health or other fields. Teams were given a case-based challenge and had several weeks to conduct a root cause analysis. In their analysis, teams were asked to create a vision for improving the patient experience, the health of the population and the affordability of care related to stroke in a fictitious health care network.

At the competition’s culmination, each team presented their findings and recommendations to a panel of judges, who evaluated the analysis in the context of real-world standards of practice.

The winning UNC team included medical student Courtney Canter, nursing student Lesley Peters, Master of Healthcare Administration/Master of Business Administration student Wen Lin and Master of Healthcare Administration student Samantha Cooperstein. The team prepared for the competition by conducting research, collaborating during numerous team meetings and meeting with an interdisciplinary team of UNC faculty advisors, healthcare practitioners and student mentors from January through April.

“These students were amazing as they progressed through their root cause analysis, considering the healthcare issues and designing solutions,” said Dr. Durham of the intensive preparation process. “Their dedication and commitment to being the solution for health care is impressive.”

While presenting their findings in Minneapolis, Minn., the UNC team benefitted from the opportunity to interact with faculty, health care professionals and other students from across the country to exchange ideas about health care quality improvement.

Improving care—for today and tomorrow

The team’s student members pose with faculty advisor Kelly Scolaro (left).

The team’s student members pose with faculty advisor Kelly Scolaro (left).

Issues of quality and patient safety in health care have received national attention since a report released by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 indicated that as many as 98,000 people in America may die each year due to medical errors. A lack of communication among doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals has been pinpointed as one potential cause of these errors. In response, health care education programs at UNC and elsewhere have significantly stepped up their efforts to imbue students with the skills they need to work effectively as interprofessional health care teams.

As part of these efforts, UNC sent its first team to the CLARION competition in 2014 under the guidance of Kelly Scolaro, PharmD, director of the Pharmaceutical Care Laboratory at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Dr. Scolaro was also a driving force for this year’s team.

The competition represents many of the values advanced by “Interprofessional Teamwork and Communication: Keys to Patient Safety,” an interdisciplinary course led by Dr. Scolaro, Dr. Durham, and Benny Joyner, Jr., MD, MPH, FAAP clinical assistant professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine (see related story).

Student Team Members

Courtney Canter (Medicine)
Lesley Peters (Nursing)
Wen Lin (MHA/MBA)
Samantha Cooperstein (MHA)

Faculty Advisors

Kelly Scolaro (Pharmacy)
Carol Durham (Nursing)
Benny Joyner (Medicine)
Larry Mandelkehr (UNC Health Care)
Jeffrey Simms (Public Health)
John E. Paul (Public Health)