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‘The biggest help that any of us could imagine’

Posted by Josey Houle, Dal Health Communications Intern on September 12, 2022 in Teaching and Learning
The C3LR is housed in the Collaborative Health Education Building (CHEB) which is designed to facilitate the transformation of health education
The C3LR is housed in the Collaborative Health Education Building (CHEB) which is designed to facilitate the transformation of health education

Health professionals' interprofessional education (IPE) empowered by partnership between the Centre for Collaborative Clinical Learning and Research (C3LR) and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)

Demonstrating its dedication to community-engaged learning, Dal Health’s outreach grows stronger every day.

In 2019, IPE Coordinator and C3LR Director, Noel Pendergast (BPEd, RRT, CRE, MPH) and School of Occupational Therapy Instructor, Sara Abdo (BSc, MSc), were in the process of creating a scenario for Dal’s 2020 Health Care Team Challenge. This challenge presented a health emergency simulation to teams made up of students and professionals from various disciplines.

A former employee of ISANS, Abdo recommended Pendergast include the not-for-profit’s employees and students in the conversation. Dr. Anne Godden-Webster, former IPE Coordinator for the Faculty of Health, had a similar idea and invited Carolyn Duvar (BA, MA) to watch the challenge. Duvar is an English Additional Language educator for ISANS’ Internationally Educated Health Care Professionals (IEHPs), teaching courses on Canadian medical practice culture, communication, and certification.

At the 2020 challenge, ISANS was equipped as facilitators and informants on a scenario centred around an immigrant family, offering insights into immigrant and refugee challenges specific to health education. This collaboration was a huge success, serving as the foundation for Dal and ISANS’ shared interprofessional vision.

Reflecting on the development of this partnership, Abdo says: “The amount of learning I have gained from clients and staff is incredible.” Since the challenge, ISANS has volunteered at Dalhousie on several occasions, including the First Year IPE Event, formerly known as Dalmazing. They have also recruited internationally trained health care providers to be facilitators for the event. To help Dal students in their clinical simulations, ISANS students work in the C3LR as simulation patients (SPs).

In 2020, the C3LR offered the Collaborative Health Education Building’s (CHEB) simulated patient rooms and cases to ISANS students seeking clinical simulations, instead of communication ones. Alternatively, to further aid IEHPs with their communication skills, C3LR Simulated Patient Educator Sarah Campbell Bligh designed communication sessions for ISANS students, which were further developed by colleague Melanie MacLeod. Since these sessions have reported a 100 percent satisfaction rate from IEHPs, the C3LR will be offering ISANS students another session of the same natureHelping ISANS further, MacLeod and Pendergast ensure that simulation costs are reduced for the organization.

On her interactions with ISANS students and staff, MacLeod explained: “It gives me a lot of hope for our future. They are so amazing to work with—I can’t get over how appreciative they are, and willing to learn.”

Alternatively, on Dalhousie’s support of ISANS, Duvar insisted that: “Everybody at the C3LR is so helpful and so nice. They reach out to me.”

Dr. Odebode Olusegun, a Medical Doctor from Nigeria, couldn’t find the words to express his gratitude for ISANS and Dalhousie. Dr. Olusegun explained that Duvar’s Communication Strategies for OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) course re-instilled his active listening skills, and that Dal’s communication simulations educated him on the clinical language that is specific to Canadian culture. Dr. Shirin Alrefai, an IEHP pharmacist from Syria, expressed similar sentiments of gratitude for the “amazing” training that was offered to her by Dal and ISANS, as “book knowledge is not enough” to guide her in the Canadian pharmacy workforce. Reviewing ISANS and Dal course materials, Dr. Olusegun smiled in suggesting: “The only way I can express my thanks is to pass the examination.”

Looking Forward

Pendergast excites in how the C3LR’s partnership with ISANS suits the pillars outlined in Dal’s Annual Progress Report, demonstrating further success in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). While the C3LR's main mandate is educating Dal students in health programs, Nova Scotia has a desperate need for health professionals in all fields. Pendergast outlined the C3LR’s dedication to ensuring that Dal Grads as well as IEHPs are integrated into the health system: “If you have people moving into the province, who are already pharmacists, nurses, or other kinds of health professionals in their home countries, we need to continue to help them join the workforce.”

In eager anticipation, we watch as Dal and ISANS’ shared accomplishments unfold in Halifax and beyond.