When tasked with creating a project to address accessibility in higher education, my group decided to address student access to healthcare at Pitt. Based on a 2016 statistic from Inside Higher Ed, college students are the largest cohort of Americans without insurance. Success at school can be hindered by unaddressed and untreated health issues, so access to healthcare is important for all students at Pitt.
Working on this project reinforced my support of interdisciplinary research. As the famous proverb goes, “two heads are better than one,” and the problems of today’s world can be better solved by incorporating collaborators outside of one discipline. Some fields naturally work together; for example, healthcare and economics fit because healthcare has a product that is in high demand, at a high price so the principles of economics apply. The same could be said about healthcare and other social sciences like psychology, sociology, and political science. As a future healthcare worker, I was unaware how arts and humanities could deepen my understanding of patient care. But, history has shaped medical practices and understanding other cultures and lived experiences will help me better meet the needs of my patients.
Throughout the fellowship, I have become more confident talking with people outside of my discipline. As we have mentioned before in our weekly meetings, using analogies to explain something has been the most effective so far. Sometimes, ideas are too complex to simplify to one analogy but putting an idea into a context other people understand is so helpful. Patience and listening are also important when working across disciplines as well. When someone is explaining their fields perspective, it can be difficult to articulate what you are thinking. If the group can take a five-minute break to collect their thoughts before discussion starts, a more in-depth conversation can take place. Active listening is also important when working across disciplines to better understand an unfamiliar topic. Unfortunately, over a zoom call it is hard to see someone’s body language, but I found restating other ideas back to them in my own words was helpful. Something unique about working across disciplines was working with predominantly males in my group. Nursing is a female dominated profession, so I haven’t come across this much in my undergrad experience. However, in the hospital there are other disciplines that are male dominated, so the experience was valuable.
Because my research investigates social determinants of health, it is closely linked to social sciences and how social sciences impact patient outcomes. There are many aspects that impact social determinants of health that my colleagues are more familiar with than myself. There are members of my group researching language and specific patient populations like immigrants and members of the LBGTQ community. While I cannot change my current project to investigate these other aspects, in the future, I will be certain to include different patient populations in the sample, so it is representative of all people.
In every field, there are certain buzz words and objectives that change as the discipline evolves. In nursing, health promotion, advocacy, and patient education are key areas of focus. When hearing about other people’s research, you can see how their buzz words elate to terms I can relate to. Knowing how significant these topics are to my field and hearing other people use similar terminology helps me further understand why their projects are significant in their respective fields and my field. Also, hearing how their projects can impact fields I wouldn’t have thought of makes me think my project may have more implications than I think.
Here is team 2’s ideathon presentation!