McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Health care team-building focus of session

Published: January 18, 2012

In 2005, the Health Council of Canada, an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal in Canada, said that health sciences education needs to be transformed by "integrating parts of what are now separate academic programs and by a focus on team-building."

On January 27, 640 participants from McMaster University’s health science programs ranging from medicine and nursing to rehabilitation, will participate in a half-day event entitled Learning Together to Work Together: Professionalism and Patient Safety.

McMaster has always valued and modeled team work and collaboration. The Faculty of Health Sciences was the first in Canada to include programs in medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and midwifery in one integrated Faculty. The university also welcomed its inaugural class of physician assistant students in September 2008, the first in Ontario.

Almost five years ago, McMaster introduced PIPER (Program for Inter-professional Practice, Education and Research) which fosters the importance of collaboration and an appreciation of each other’s roles in practicing health care. Collaboration has also been enhanced with the formation of the McMaster Inter-professional Student Collaborative which builds student learning through academic and social events and community service work.

Guest speakers at the January 27 event will be lawyer Robin Edwards, advisor, professionalism in clinically based education, Faculty of Health Sciences; and Dr. Susan Swiggum, senior physician risk manager, risk management service, Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA).

"The crux of the event will be small group discussions in interprofessional groups," said Bonnie Jung, director, PIPER, and an assistant professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science.

Each small group will include a mix of students from medicine, midwifery, nursing, occupational and physiotherapy and physician assistant. "Child life students have been invited as well and they will be a wonderful addition to the discussions that students have in their small groups," Jung said.

Her hope is that students will retain what they learn and carry it over to the classroom and their clinical placements, eventually being "collaborative ready" to enter their chosen profession.

Healthcare delivery models for the future envision teams of healthcare providers working together to meet patient needs, John H.V. Gilbert, principal, College of Health Disciplines, University of British Columbia, has said.

He noted inter-professional education (IPE) is not easy to implement for a number of reasons: differences is prerequisites for admission to professional programs; the length of professional education; availability of community and hospital resources for clinical education; freedom, or the lack of, selection of professional courses and time-tabling differences, among others.

"We need to find not only time and space, but also academically acceptable mechanisms for measuring the effectiveness of IPE activities. Changing existing attitudes is both a challenge and opportunity," Gilbert said.

He said other challenges impede IPE efforts, such as structural differences between faculty organizations, conflicting university and professional agendas, lack of adequate human resources to implement programs both within the university and broader community.

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