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UC collaboration boosts interprofessional learning with region’s health students

Danielle Meddemmen

6 May 2021: The inaugural ‘Together in Health: Canberra Interprofessional Health Challenge’ took place last night, following a collaboration between the University of Canberra, the Australian National University (ANU) and Canberra Health Services (CHS) to promote interprofessional learning between the region’s health students.

The challenge involved 36 medical and allied health students from across the tertiary institutions, who formed six multi-disciplinary teams to collaborate and provide a treatment plan for a person-centred case study.

The nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, dietetics, pharmacy and medicine students presented their treatment plans to an expert panel of judges at the Canberra Hospital last night.

The University of Canberra’s Discipline Lead in Nursing, Jane Frost, said the Interprofessional Health Challenge experience aimed to help the final year students build their collaborative skills before stepping into the workforce.

“We are moving away from teaching students in silos because while you might be studying one heath discipline, you need to know how other health professionals operate,” she said.

“These students don’t just work with colleagues from their discipline when they get onto the ward, they’re going to be teamed up with doctors and other allied health professionals and they need to know how best to collaborate with them.”

The groups had been liaising together since mid-March and each had a professional mentor from CHS to assist their findings and decisions along the way.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health at UC, Professor Michelle Lincoln said interprofessional learning was very important in developing work-ready graduates.

“Healthcare is dependent on sharing knowledge, diagnoses and working as a team of complementary disciplines with the primary goal of supporting patients and providing patient-centric care,” she said.

“Respect and understanding of these different disciplines, approaches and healthcare programs ensures more effective patient care across the board.”

The winning group, LEGO Rangers and runners up Brainforest were chosen by the judging panel based on their presentation, collaboration and patient centeredness.

Brainforest team member and University of Canberra Bachelor of Nursing student Sophie Osborne said the experience had allowed her to network with her future health colleagues and expand her own knowledge.

“It can be quite focused at University to learning about your profession, so it’s been really interesting expanding my knowledge and gaining broader perspective of how the whole team works in the health industry,” she said.

“I have gained so much knowledge from my fellow colleagues and students about what their role is in the hospital and even expended the knowledge of my own discipline.”

Canberra Health Services Interprofessional Learning Coordinator Sarah Chapman said the collaboration, which hoped to continue, had significant benefits for both the students, and the workforce in Canberra.

“We know that when we work well together in teams, we get better outcomes for not only our patients and consumers, but the workers in our healthcare teams and that’s what we want to encourage,” she said.

“We want to start teaching those skills in students so when they come into the workforce, they are ready to work to provide the most effective and efficient healthcare to the Canberra community.”