By Dr. Lindsay Davidson, Collaborator Lead
For several years, first year medical students have had the opportunity to shadow a non-physician health care provider for a half day as part of the Introduction to Professional Roles course. This initiative, championed by Dr. Sanfilippo, initially involved nurses at one institution and has grown to include 3 sites (KGH, HDH and PCCC) and 11 different groups of health care providers. First year students are charged with beginning to understand their role (as future physicians) as well as the role(s) of the myriad types of health care providers that they will work with over the course of their careers. Most years, the Observerships have been preceded by an in-class brainstorming session, where student infer what various professionals’ roles might be. Following this, students are assigned to work with one of the available health care providers during curricular time. This practical experience allows students to act as ‘anthropologists’, observing for themselves what various health care providers actually do, day-to-day as well as how they collaborate with patients, family members and other members of their team. Finally, at the end of term, students convene in groups to compare and debrief their experiences, collating new lists of the roles and functions that they have observer, to be contrasted with their initial brainstorming. Invariably, the end-of-term collations reflect the insight of the experiences that they have shared.
Here are some of the observations students have made:
“I liked being able to be a part of the meetings with families so that I could better understand what role the social worker played.”
“My preceptor was very approachable and forthcoming with information about her profession; she seemed very enthusiastic about participating in the IP program.”
“… I just had not thought about how the social worker-patient encounter would rely on the same trust- and rapport-building methods as the physician physicians do.”
“I had pictured a dietitian’s work to be office-based, with patients coming for consults at her desk. It never occurred to me that in the hospital, they would accompany the rest of the health teams to do rounds.”
“And I now appreciate the importance of an OT in helping a patient adapt to their new health and return to their normal life as best as possible.”
“I had envisioned a solemn chaplain giving last rites, but clearly this is not the role of the spiritual care practitioner at KGH. Instead, I was surprised by the breadth of the role – there are people who do not consider themselves spiritual or religious at all, yet still speak at length with the spiritual care practitioner about their life and their thoughts about death.”
“I believe it is important to be aware of how physicians can collaborate with allied health professionals to provide the best care, recognizing that we cannot do everything.”
The Interprofessional (IP) Observership has been met with enthusiasm by students and our hospital partners alike and this year, we are offering students the opportunity to participate in an optional second observership, to broaden their experience an understanding of their future IP colleagues. Additionally, in 2017-18, we will be piloting an advanced IP Observership at the Kingston Community Health Centre, where groups of students will spend half a day observing a team-based Interprofessional clinic in our community.
With thanks to students Sarah Edgerley, Shannon Willmott, Ameir Makar, and Etienne Benard-Seguin who have been working on tracking and analyzing the Interprofessional Observership experience.