First-year students in the School of Health Sciences explore professional identities

All first-year students in the School of Health Sciences participated in a professional identity formation activity that connected self, colleagues, future healthcare team collaborators and the Maker Hub.

The first year in any accelerated or graduate program is intense for students in the School of Health Sciences. To mitigate this stress, to connect the school’s students with Elon and to connect these students as future collaborators, an interprofessional team of faculty and staff organized a Professional Identity and Me exercise during the first week of January.

The interprofessional faculty organizers used a Center for Advancement of Teaching & Learning (CATL) Diversity and Inclusion Grant to explore best interprofessional practices for the development of skills related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The result? An understanding of the need for a scaffolded approach to understanding personal identity before engaging in teams as collaborators to further explore cultural humility and inclusivity.

2021 CATL Diversity and Inclusion grant researchers from the School of Health Sciences pose with masks submitted by learners

Likewise, Interprofessional Practice and Education (IPE) hinges on understanding one’s values and ethics before relating to those of others. The literature review also uncovered using art, specifically mask making, as a means of exploring professional identity.

Nursing and Physician Assistant Program Directors Tiffany Morris and Kim Stokes took 99 first-year students from the Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies programs to Lakeside during the first week of the Winter Term and generated a rich discussion and space for inclusivity. The time was also used to introduce interprofessional practice and education core competencies (IPEC), cultural humility and humble inquiry. At the end of the experience, the students were provided with a paper mache mask and the Maker Hub introduced ways they could assist with mask preparation. All submitted the masks along with an anonymous description at a later date.

To encourage participants to connect with the Maker Hub, the CATL DIG researchers held an evening work session at the downtown location that included Smitty’s ice cream. Students worked in collaboration and explored words and representations of their identity that resulted in rich discussion, laughter, and beautiful expressions on their masks.

On Feb. 22, faculty and staff members Lake Laosebikan-Buggs, director of inclusive excellence for graduate and professional programs, Paula DiBiasio in the Department of Physical Therapy and Nita Skillman, director of interprofessional simulation, organized a “Mask Reveal” during which faculty, staff and students perused the masks and reflected with which they most identified in an effort for students to find connections while here at Elon.

The masks will remain on display in the School of Health Sciences walls indefinitely with new additions periodically. Everyone is welcome to peruse and celebrate the diversity of identities discovered through this activity.