Care and Collaboration: Our Students Set the Example
Guest blog post by Anne O’Riordan, Clinical Educator with the Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice and Lecturer with the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.
Every once in a very long while, I find myself in the midst of special circumstances that elicit a feeling of authentic gratitude and pride. Such an event took place over the first weekend in March at the National Health Sciences Students’ Association (NaHSSA) conference and National Health Care Team Challenge™, held here at Queen’s University. I will remember these events as highlights of this academic year and I’d like to share my reasons with the broader healthcare community.
I am part of a small but dedicated team in the Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice (OIPEP). We work with all programs within the Faculty of Health Sciences (and others in the Faculty of Arts & Science) to encourage interprofessional client-centred collaboration, based on a national competency framework, as part of the curricula offered to health sciences students. We have enjoyed a growing partnership with the Queen’s Health Interprofessionals Student Society (QHIP) over the past few years. We know that students are the drivers of change on our campus and beyond – of curriculum, culture and future health care provision. I have been privileged to be part of QHIP over the past year as their faculty advisor. This role has given me a unique vantage of observing and experiencing the students’ learning, practising and promoting of the interprofessional competencies we espouse in our work. Together, we have been on an interprofessional, collaborative journey.
In the spring of 2014, the students submitted their bid to host the NaHHSA conference and were delighted to be chosen as hosts. Plans were initiated over the summer with the theme and title of the conference chosen – Putting the Care Back into Healthcare: Facilitating Positive Experiences for both Patients and Providers. They were thrilled when their invitations to two keynote speakers were enthusiastically accepted: Dr. Lesley Bainbridge from the University of British Columbia who is the co-author of the National Interprofessional Competency Framework (spearheaded by Dr. Rosemary Brander and Dr. Leslie Flynn with support from the Principal’s Development Fund) and Ms. Françoise Mathieu, Director of Compassionate Care Solutions, who is internationally known for her work in compassion fatigue. Presenters from Queen’s and our local healthcare community – Dr. Ruth Wilson, Dr. Kathleen Norman, Dr. Salinda Horgan, Professor Diana Hopkins-Rosseel, Critical Care Nurse Heather Armstrong, and Patient Experience Advisor Glenn Outhwaite – were quick to add their support along with athlete Andrea Andrecyk and journalist Cathy Lesage of the Changing Minds Changing Lives program from the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Fifteen poster abstracts from student delegates were accepted.
Months of planning and preparation followed, with weekly meetings and online discussions. The students began as a self-admitted inexperienced group of conference planners. Individual strengths and areas of weakness emerged over time as the list of required tasks grew. Tensions rose in late fall while students prepared for exams while worrying about conference finances. Group conflict was evident early in the New Year as time constraints and final preparations became realities. Despite obvious stresses, students maintained a sense of humour and their energy never flagged. And something began to change as their goal – the weekend conference – came into sharp focus. Individuals attended to their own duties with renewed intensity while, at the same time, offering help to others on the team. I noticed a change in leadership style…it became shared and collaborative. Communication was more about specific tasks with a view toward the end result. People were kind and showed their concern to one another. Differences and tensions dissipated and I found myself witnessing true interprofessional collaboration with all of its benefits. This was a team intent on working well and reaching their objectives with everyone contributing to the process.
The result was a highly successful conference and a strengthened bond among the QHIP team members. Over 100 delegates from across the country came together for two days of learning, networking and enjoyment. Collaboration and caring became even more evident during the conference itself: students were beaming as they welcomed delegates to campus; they assumed professional identities in their presentation and communication; conference “coping bags” were distributed to every member of the organizing group (throat lozenges, tissues, lip balm and a squeezable stress ball); no one person was left alone to deal with problems; and a shared group identity resulted. It also came as no surprise that Team Queen’s earned top honours in the National Health Care Team Challenge™!
This was a year-long phenomenal group effort and our Queen’s students shone as the face of success. While the conference is long gone, the collaborative effort continues as the students rally to engage in research and manuscripts for future presentations and publications. Proceeds from the conference have been earmarked to support future Queen’s student participation in similar events; the students’ intention being to ‘pay it forward’.
While everyone can expect health challenges in their lives, I feel confident that when I become a patient I will be cared for by a competent, caring and collaborative team of healthcare providers. The QHIP students provide the evidence!
Thank you to Anne O’Riordan for preparing this post. If you would like to comment on the collaborative work of our students, please share your thoughts below, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House – my door is always open.