Students create inspirational rehab tree

- August 21, 2015

Students (from right) Clare Yorston, Maddie Sherman, Monica Sze and Katie Flynn are part of an interprofessional team working on the Rehab Tree project. (Kathryn Morse photos)
Students (from right) Clare Yorston, Maddie Sherman, Monica Sze and Katie Flynn are part of an interprofessional team working on the Rehab Tree project. (Kathryn Morse photos)

Students working on an Interprofessional Education (IPE) project are bringing smiles to the faces of staff and patients at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre and gaining valuable skills in the process.  

The Health Professions students have been meeting with patients and families and asking them “What does the Rehab Centre mean to you?” Patients write their answers on paper leaves which are then attached to a 4 metre-long tree painted on a construction wall.

“The tree is amazing — it’s bringing joy to patients,” says student Maddie Sherman.

Maddie is a fourth-year Kinesiology student, and one of 11 students involved in the IPE project. The students are from Physiotherapy, Orthotics and Prosthetics, Occupational Therapy, Recreation Therapy, Social Work, Research, Kinesiology and Spiritual Care. “The Rehab family offers hope when you think there is none” and “A safe, secure and encouraging place for Mom” are some of the comments the students have collected. 

In some cases, the students met with patients at their hospital beds to collect the leaves, while in others, patients went to the tree themselves as part of their balance training.

“The goal was for the students to learn more about the other disciplines, and in the process they also did a fantastic job involving patients,” says Myrna King, professional practice coordinator with the Rehab Centre, and co-facilitator of the project, along with Sherry MacPherson. The facilitators collaborated as well: Myrna’s training is in Occupational Therapy, and Sherry’s is in Social Work.

“Everyone comes in to this with a different lens, and the students learned a lot about collaboration," adds Myrna. "A big part of the project was for them to decide how they were going to decide — that’s something they will need to do when they are working on teams. The more we can do for student learners in terms of interprofessional communication skills, the more the patient benefits.”

One of the practical challenges the students faced was simply finding time to meet in their busy, and often conflicting, schedules. Their solution was to break the project down into parts and stage the work at different times, so everyone could participate. The students — from Dalhousie and the Atlantic School of Theology — enjoyed having a project with a visible result and one that had meaning for patients, families and staff at the rehab centre, but they say the most valuable part of the project was learning about each other.

“I got to know more about the roles of each of the professions. We all did,” says Maddie. “It gave everyone an opportunity to clarify misconceptions and gain a better grasp of each profession’s scope of practise.”

The Rehab tree continues to grow, as more leaves are added by patients. Although the project was originally intended to be a temporary tree installed on a temporary wall, the team is considering ways future students can preserve it — collaboratively of course.


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