What if all health sciences students were educated together?
By Erna Snelgrove-Clarke and Jane Philpott
During the pandemic, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of collaboration across the health professions. Have we come to the moment we can finally start to take down the walls that divide us, as different disciplines within healthcare? Have we learned to appreciate the unique roles and contributions of each member of the health team, in a way we’ve never done before? How would the future look different if nurses, doctors, PTs, OTs, health researchers, and public health scientists worked and learned together right from the start?
Roles and impending change
Over the course of the School of Nursing’s National Nursing Week series, we have considered the many roles of nursing, non-pharmacological treatment options, nurses working with midwives and more. These are the topics of today but what about the future? It is a future where we anticipate significant shifts in the health-systems landscape, changes in the diversity of the patient population, the costs of healthcare, and major advances in technology. Collectively, these changes will have an impact on health sciences education and present a unique opportunity for students and their learning environments. As the recipients of our care live longer, this extended life expectancy will drive continued growth in the demand for health services. This, in turn, demands new approaches to healthcare delivery and health sciences education.
Interprofessional education is common practice in many post-secondary institutions for certain disciplines. With the knowledge that collaborative teams improve patient outcomes, perhaps it is time to bring an interprofessional practice to health professions education. Despite the many roles of nurses, there are a variety of other health professionals needed in a team-based approach to patient care. Teamwork is not without some struggles – challenges to understand one another, challenges to respect each others’ roles, and the ongoing demand for effective team leadership and support for a workplace require perpetual adaptation.
Where to start and how to end
Nursing week highlights for us the need to #AnswerTheCall. As nurses, our call is to work collaboratively to enhance health outcomes. As we strive for continued improvement, our work is not conducted in isolation. During this pandemic, we see nurses, physicians, and respiratory therapists working side by side in ICU and elsewhere with both challenges and camaraderie. What we haven’t yet achieved is the acceptance of these different disciplines offering comparable and complimentary care, side by side. Imagine an interprofessional environment where each of these different disciplines begins their journey to be a health professional in the same classroom, a place where everyone is the same. Imagine the impact this educational offering would have on a pandemic when these learners continue their collaboration outside of the classroom, in their future workplaces.
While Nursing Week is a celebration of nurses, and it has been a joyous week, we are closing out our week with the promise of better health and better education for tomorrow. The promise of learning in an environment where health professions students are taught together, inclusively, and collaboratively. An environment of hope and improved health outcomes.
What if tomorrow brought all our many roles together in the spirit of health for all? What does interprofessionalism in education mean for you? Share your thoughts by commenting below.