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The Next 25: Queen’s Health Sciences' healthcare revolution

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This story is part of #TheNext25, an ongoing series exploring how Queen's Health Sciences is reimagining health education, research, and patient care.

For a healthier world. This is the mantra of Queen’s Health Sciences (QHS) as it leads a revolution in health education, research, and patient care.  

As QHS celebrates its 25th anniversary as a faculty, its schools of Medicine, Nursing and Rehabilitation Therapy are firmly focused on the future. Together, they are transforming 21st century health sciences education – and reinventing healthcare on the front lines in research institutions, clinics, and communities.  

“We are focused on radical collaboration,” says Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean, Queen’s Health Sciences. “That means we are training a whole new generation of health scientists and professionals to work and learn together from the beginning of their careers. It is essential that we make sure people do not come here to work or study in isolated silos, and that they are intentionally exposed to other disciplines. This will have a huge impact on the front lines as we will see much stronger collaboration amongst health professionals who are better equipped for the challenges of the future.” 

With interdisciplinary education at the forefront of QHS’s vision, students will experience shared curricula, team-based learning, and educational experiences that integrate schools, programs, and learning environments. The goal is for 20 per cent of all curricula to be interdisciplinary within five years. This will graduate practitioners and scientists able to work anywhere and lead change.   

Another integral part of that change is a commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigeneity and Accessibility in education, research, and care – including diversifying the profile of staff, faculty and students and developing learners to provide equitable, culturally-safe care.   

“We want to make sure that QHS is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place for people to work and learn,” says Dr. Philpott. “Part of that is ensuring any learner has fair access to our programs and taking deliberate steps to make sure that our programs and classes are more diverse. In addition, we must teach our students to understand the range of perspectives that their patients have, and that they need to deliver culturally-safe care at all times. Our work on changing the curriculum addresses these crucial issues." 

Changes in the classroom also align with the faculty’s efforts to reshape the health system itself – on the ground – by pioneering new models of care that respond to community needs, make care more accessible, and ease the burden of staffing shortages. Examples include a health hub to improve access to rehabilitation services in Kingston and the Oasis Senior Supportive Living program, a unique model of active aging-in-place originally developed with a group of seniors living in an apartment building in Kingston. 

Research is also playing a role in reimaging patient care. For example, QHS is addressing the human resources shortage in health care by reimagining the roles that rehabilitation and nursing professionals play in our health system. Expanding the scope of these health professionals will allow them to better address unmet community needs. Case in point, ongoing research that places physiotherapists within interprofessional teams to deliver primary care. 

One individual who is championing the expansion of these roles is Dr. Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, Vice-Dean, QHS, and Director, School of Nursing. “The physician shortage is in the news all the time, and more and more people are struggling to access primary care,” says Dr. Snelgrove-Clarke. “Often when we have these conversations, we are not thinking about the broad scope of competencies that exist within other healthcare providers like nurse practitioners, physical therapists, and occupation therapists who can work in collaboration with primary care physicians.” 

Teamwork is also at the heart of the faculty’s plans to discover and share solutions to the world’s most pressing questions in the health sciences. A focus on interdisciplinary research is bringing together experts from all disciplines to answer the big questions. QHS aims to incentivize interdisciplinary teamwork that may not naturally occur between researchers by taking down walls between disciplines and creating research awards based on teamwork and collaboration.  

“I'm excited about the direction for health research in the next 25 years, and there is no question that the research that we are doing here will transform the healthcare landscape not only just in Kingston, but across the world,” says Dr. Stephanie Nixon, Vice-Dean, QHS, and Director, School of Rehabilitation Therapy. “This research is being driven not only by clinicians, but by researchers and scholars across the faculty to help address wicked problems that have complex solutions which require an interdisciplinary approach.” 

At the end of the day, QHS believes collaboration within and out can help find the solutions our health care system needs. That approach is already having an impact. Recent initiatives include new collaboration with Lakeridge Health to train family physicians, and a program aiming to diversify health education by engaging youth from equity-deserving communities. 

“We know that health systems in Canada and in fact beyond Canada, are under enormous pressure as we recover from the huge blow of the pandemic, and there's an increasing need to make sure we deliver high quality care at an affordable cost,” Dr. Philpott says. “Queen’s Health Sciences and academic health sciences writ large can be a big part of the solution to what those health systems need. We need to find ways that people can work better... together… to find new answers for the challenging questions that are faced in healthcare, and make sure that our people are well enabled to be able to work effectively in a way that is both equitable and accessible.”  

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