Since 2018, teachers across the 7 medical technology and health disciplines taught at Dawson College have come together to ideate, design, create, and refine overlapping pedagogical activities for the 800 students of the sector. Ultimately, this Interprofessional Education (IPE) project aims to provide students in the programs concerned with a skill set and acumen to work together effectively for the patient. To illustrate how we achieved this, we present IPE and discuss some of the activities that our team has developed over the years—a work in progress that will continue as we undertake the 2nd chapter of our project.
What is interprofessional education (IPE)?
In the health sciences, the IPE approach stems from the complex nature of the patient’s needs and the health care system. Effective collaboration among multiple health care professionals is essential for a comprehensive health care approach. That’s why many educational institutions across Canada have started implementing IPE activities to augment interactions between students in different health-related programs. At Dawson College, the IPE project involves students in:
- Biomedical Laboratory Technology
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Medical Ultrasound Technology
- Physiotherapy Technology
- Radiation Oncology
- Social Service
Medical Ultrasound Technology is a brand-new program, created in 2021. The IPE project really was a wonderful way for a young program to seek some mentorship from our peers while offering something more to our students from day one. I felt like a kid in a candy store of different possibilities for the kinds of collaborations that could come out of this.
— Melanie Nash, Medical Ultrasound teacher
IPE is a process that teaches students how to collaborate across professions. Its aim is to allow students to “understand their own professional identity while gaining an understanding of other professional’s roles on the health care team.” The benefit for our students is that it helps them master:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Conflict management skills
- Teamwork skills
- Leadership skills
The research already shows that IPE works for improving communication and patient outcomes. It decreases burnout and we see that our IPE activities are already having a positive effect on patient care and on students themselves as they can communicate more easily with other professions.
— Sharon Clegg, Physiotherapy Technology teacher
IPE is different from an interdisciplinary approach: A discipline is an academic division of knowledge, while a profession is an occupation, vocation, or career that requires special education. Thus,
- an interdisciplinary approach focuses on the interaction between disciplines
- an interprofessional approach concerns the relationship that is created amongst its users
The purpose of an interprofessional approach is still to interact and work to a common goal, yet when the common goal is the health of the patient, a relationship between professions needs to be formed.
One important aspect of IPE research is the continued focus on the dynamic and ever-shifting needs of patients. In order to best help people in the health care system, the health care team needs to also be dynamic and be able to shift. By experiencing these types of dynamic systems in their training, our students have a higher chance of being more collaborative practice ready and react accordingly to the needs of the patient.
— John Battista, Radiation Oncology teacher
We’ve learned a lot from the Canadian Interprofessional Healthcare Collaborative and their guide to implementing an IPE program. One of our major takeaways from their work has been the 6 IPE competencies:
- Role Clarification
- Interprofessional Communication
- Client and Family centered care
- Collaborative Leadership
- Conflict Resolution
Some IPE activities fostering collaboration across professions
Using these competencies, we have been able to develop a wide variety of IPE learning opportunities. We began with low-barrier and low-risk activities to minimize disruptions to what is already working and then we slowly progressed to more complex learning opportunities. Here, we present a selection of learning opportunities we created, in the order students engage with them as they progress through their respective programs.
Creating a sense of belonging
Working with Student Services, the IPE team organizes a group orientation for all 1st-year students from the sector. Beyond giving the students a much-needed introduction to the Dawson community, it:
- provides them with a deeper sense of belonging to the sector of health technology disciplines
- allows them to immediately understand that they are a part of a team of health professionals and that they are not alone in their training
IPE is especially important in Biomedical Laboratory Technology, because Medical Laboratory Technologists generally have little patient contact. We are often viewed as being “behind the scenes”, with not many other professionals having a clear idea of what it is we do. Being involved in IPE is a way to change that, while creating a powerful reminder to Technologists about the impact our work has on patient outcomes.
— Danny Vescio, Biomedical Laboratory Technology teacher
Along with the group orientation, during the middle of their 1st semester, students within the sector participate in a 2-hour role clarification workshop. This workshop includes some ice breakers, a tour of the lab and teaching spaces of each discipline, as well as some case studies where students must identify how their discipline would help the patient.
It was really fascinating and interesting to learn about the other health professions. During the session, we learned how important it is to work with other health professions in order to help our patients. I believe it is really important to learn about the other professions in order for us to succeed in the future.
— Rose Gauthier-Villeneuve, 1st-year student in Physiotherapy Technology
Learning in the flesh
During their 2nd semester, using cadavers at the Concordia University Exercise Science lab, roughly 150 students from the sector explore the commonalities and differences between the medical technology disciplines. Students from each discipline teach each other about the systems of the body using the cadavers as their teaching tool. Employing active learning strategies, the students can exchange with one another, which leads to some “aha” moments as students are able to see, literally in the flesh, what they have been learning about throughout their education.
It really felt gratifying and rewarding to interact and share medical knowledge with the other disciplines that are so specialized in their field, and how the combined knowledge can help the patient! I think this experience was really eye-opening and puts everything we learned throughout the year into a different perspective on how our individual roles can cohesively shape the quality of healthcare for the population!
— Leon Jin Kim,1st-year student in Diagnostic Imaging
Sarah Lynn – A breast cancer survivor
As the students’ training continues, they are immersed in a more complex Role Clarification activity. This activity for all 2nd-year students centers around Sarah Lynn, a breast cancer survivor. The learning objective of this activity is for the students in each of the 7 disciplines to demonstrate their role within the case as well as learn each other’s roles when helping Sarah Lynn. The students work in small interdisciplinary groups to:
- document their discipline-specific contributions to Sarah Lynn’s recovery
- share videos they create
- work together on an alignment activity
The Sarah Lynn breast cancer project made everyone very empathetic to the patient. It wasn’t just about learning the role that everybody had, but also about the patient experience. The students’ feedback has been that they really are taken aback or that it was very different from other experiences they’ve had just within their own discipline. If the students can all empathize together, then they can also work and collaborate better.
— Krista Bulow, Physiotherapy Technology teacher