Interprofessional event brings health sciences and nursing students together for large scale online learning

Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

March 1, 2021 – Nearly one year into a global pandemic, Zoom fatigue and web weariness have become a real phenomenon. Some might worry that a massive, online gathering might not hold much appeal to potential participants but Stacey Shand, Interprofessional Education coordinator at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, can quickly set such concerns to rest. Working with Sask Polytech’s School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing, Shand and her team broke new virtual ground by hosting the first ever Interprofessional Education (IPE) event of its kind online.

The full-morning event on February 25, 2021 was indeed a massive online gathering. Hosted by 63 faculty facilitators, nearly 500 Sask Polytech health sciences and nursing students along with their student colleagues from the SCBScN program collaborated in a patient narrative activity aimed at developing interprofessional competencies. Broken into 99 teams, these students joined one of 63 active Zoom meetings and got down to work.

“Each group was made up of five students from different programs, and their first task was a team development activity where they learned about each others’ programs and disciplines,” explains Shand. From there, students watched pre-recorded patient narrative videos, where real patient interviews gave students a window into the health care system from a patient perspective.

“In real life patients interact with many different arms of health care, from nurses to medical technicians to continuing care assistants,” notes Shand. “The healthcare system has been steadily moving towards more collaborative, patient-focussed care.”

Students entering the work force are expected to know how to work this way, yet often, their learning is discipline focussed. “Today’s activities were about reducing inter-professional stereotypes and breaking down hierarchies. If we can help students to understand each other, they will have stronger voices on their future teams and be better prepared to collaborate with their inter-professional colleagues.” The videos led to discussions and debriefing sessions where the students shared their experience and reflected on their team learning.

Student participant Samantha Onishenko clearly absorbed the concept of the session. “Today’s IPE event was an empowering experience. I believe I will greatly benefit from this opportunity to interact with other healthcare students that I will be working alongside in the future. It is essential to work together as healthcare providers. Not only to make for a smooth experience for the patient, but to ensure that each patient is being treated as a whole, in all aspects of their health. To achieve this, requires knowledge of each healthcare profession. After all, we all have the same goal.” 

Sandra Blevins, dean of Sask Polytech’s Schools of Health Science and Nursing, is excited at the successful outcome of this large undertaking. “First I want to thank the patients who gave so much in providing their stories. This requires them to be vulnerable and honest and open with a group of learners and we are so thankful for the gift they provided us today. The faculty who led the groups and modelled interprofessional practice and the power and importance of health care professionals working together made me very proud.” 

Adds Blevins, “Interprofessional learning opportunities like today are becoming a cornerstone of the programming in Sask Polytechnic’s School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing. We are confident that this will make a difference in how our learners enter their fields of practice and serve their patients together.”

Students in the following 10 programs participated in the event:

  • Continuing Care Assistant Certificate
  • Dental Hygiene Advanced Diploma
  • Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing (SCBScN) (offered in collaboration with the U of R)
  • Practical Nursing Diploma
  • Health Information Management Diploma
  • Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technology Diploma
  • Medical Laboratory Assistant Applied Certificate
  • Psychiatric Nursing Advanced Diploma
  • Collaborative Nurse Practitioner Program (CNPP) – a graduate program offered in collaboration with the U of R)
  • Registered Nursing Bridging Program for Internationally Registered Nurses
  • Orientation to Nursing in Canada for Internationally Educated Nurses

This virtual IPE event may have been a first, but it won’t be the last, notes Shand. There are two virtual Interprofessional Education opportunities being offered within Nursing and Health Sciences over the next month. Programs choose to have their students participate in a Patient Narrative Activity in February or a Problem Based Learning Activity in March. The second event is expected to be even bigger, with approximately 700 to 800 students taking part.