Tuesday, January 10, 2023

This semester, Iowa Law students in the Estate Planning Clinic have been busy. In addition to representing real clients, students partnered with Iowa’s top ranked nursing program to learn how their professions can work together to solve complex problems in healthcare.

On November 16, the Estate Planning Clinic hosted a workshop with faculty and graduate student nurses in the Iowa Adult/Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program (AGNP). Students discussed the laws and real-world practices involved in preparing and implementing patient wishes through powers of attorney, living wills, and other healthcare and financial directives. Informative and educational, the workshop was well-received and an excellent example of multidisciplinary collaboration between law, nursing, and medicine.

Larry Newman, assistant professor at the University of Iowa College of Nursing and Director of the AGNP Program, hosted the workshop. He invited clinal professor of Law, Leonard "Len" Sandler, and his students in the Estate Planning Clinic, to present on the importance of legal documents in healthcare.

“The nurse practitioner students and Len's law students spent a couple of hours discussing the documents from a legal point of view versus how they are applied and utilized in real life situations. It was very enlightening for both the students and myself,” says Newman.

A primary task for law students in the Estate Planning Clinic is to prepare advance directives for clients. Advance directives are forms that allow an individual to communicate their healthcare wishes should they no longer be able to make decisions for themselves due to an illness or incapacity. During the workshop, law students explained the law governing advance directives. In response, nurse practitioner students offered real-life anecdotes regarding the use of advance directives in practice.

Nurse practitioner student Jenay Lindsey valued the workshop experience and enjoyed learning how the law intersects with healthcare.

“The workshop was a great collaboration because the nurse practitioner students were able to tell the law students what we saw happening in practice, and the law students were able to tell us what was supposed to be happening according to the letter of the law. It was an interesting contrast,” says Lindsey.

Nurse practitioner student Kate Steichen seconds Lindsey’s appreciation for the workshop.

“The collaboration between the nursing program and law program was beneficial as a future nurse practitioner. Understanding how health and law intertwine and the information provided on specific policies was invaluable. Healthcare documents are an important part of nursing, and the law students were able to answer many of our questions during the workshop,” says Steichen.

The workshop was also a unique opportunity for law students to learn about the use of medical and financial estate planning forms in a medical setting.

“This experience was invaluable for me. Hearing about the graduate nursing students' personal and professional experiences with these forms helped demonstrate their practical implications and helped me realize just how important these forms are to clients' future medical and financial decisions,” says third-year law student Rachel Zingg.

Third-year law student Jad Elchahal added, “It was a learning experience both groups, and as a clinic, we feel more comfortable discussing these advance directive documents with our clients now that we've learned more about them in use.”

By helping each other understand the processes for solving problems in their differing fields, students were able to close the communication gap that often stands between professions.

“The benefit for both groups in the workshop is a greater depth of knowledge. For the law students, it’s understanding how these forms and legal procedures are being applied in the real world. And for the nurses, it’s understanding how these legal forms and procedures are devised, placed, and how they should be used. By collaborating more with each other in the future, it will allow legal practitioners to better craft documents that aid clients in difficult medical situations, and nurses will gain a better understanding of the legal consequences and ways to better serve their patients,” says third-year law student Leighton Berridge.

After a successful workshop experience, students hope there will be more opportunities to collaborate with each other in the future.

“By interacting with the nursing students and sharing our ideas from a legal perspective, we were able to understand each other’s point of view. I learned a lot about nursing practices, and I hope further collaborative opportunities will come of this workshop,” says third-year law student Wayne Comstock.