Implementing interprofessional learning
Susan Nasser, Dalhousie Health Mentors Program
As the coordinator of the Dalhousie Health Mentors Program, Susan Nasser brings people together. This innovative program connects students from the Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry, Health Professions, Science and Computer Science with mentors who are community members with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Although other universities have run similar programs, Dalhousie has incorporated a collaboration element that sets this program apart.
“Because our teams are interprofessional, we could have a faculty member from physiotherapy supervising a team with a medical student, a social work student, a speech language pathology student and a health informatics student. That’s five different professions on one team,” Ms. Nasser explains.
For the students to be successful, each participating program must incorporate Health Mentors material directly into their curriculum to ensure the students are gaining a knowledge base that will support them in the program. “If it’s going to be workable, everybody has to have confidence in everybody else’s faculty members,” says Ms. Nasser. “I think it really demonstrates the amount of trust that we have in each other.”
The Health Mentors Program gives people with chronic diseases and disabilities the opportunity to talk about their journeys through the health-care system and share their personal stories with future health-care providers. One of the goals of the program is to help the students see their mentor as a person, rather than simply a patient or a client. The mentor relationship takes the students a step beyond textbook learning and gives them the opportunity to learn about chronic disease in a tangible way.
The program also gives the faculty members the opportunity to model and share the skills of interprofessional collaboration with their students. “We provide a living example of how it works because all of these programs came together and made this happen,” says Ms. Nasser.
“Innovation is hard work, and there are often challenges that you don’t foresee. When you have a new and innovative idea, it’s really worthwhile to stick to your guns, while still being flexible,” Ms. Nasser adds.