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"Gone are the days of the Lone Ranger." Hélène Ezer, the director of the McGill School of Nursing attributes this quip to Donald Boudreau, head of McGill's Curriculum Development & Physicianship Program. But this is clearly a common stance within McGill's health sciences programs.
At the Interprofessional Professionalism Seminar on October 4 and 11, roughly 500 McGill nursing, dentistry, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, communication sciences and disorders, and medicine students will be brought together for the first time under the aegis of the McGill Educational Initiative on Interprofessional Collaboration.
The seminar is but one element of a program that has been running for two years, thanks to a Health Canada proposal put together by a working group of McGill professors and directors back in 2003.
Health Canada was looking for proposals that would foster increased teamwork and collaboration between Canadian health care practitioners of all stripes. Addressing the study and development of exemplar clinical sites as well as faculty development and the creation of learning resources, McGill's approach was apparently just what the doctor ordered: McGill won the $1,300,000 Health Canada grant in 2004.
Margaret Purden, the academic coordinator of the School of Nursing PhD program and co-lead of the McGill IPE-IPP Initiative emphasizes that interdisciplinary teamwork is already the backbone of many health care units at the McGill University Health Centre and the Jewish General Hospital. The McGill IPE-IPP studied two such clinics, the MUHC traumatic brain injury clinic and the Jewish General Hospital geriatric day hospital, as exemplary sites.
If interprofessionalism is already a reality, why the need for the McGill IPE-IPP?
David Fleiszer, co-lead of the McGill IPE-IPP, says that, currently, health departments operate in silos. "Each has its own turf and staff. The communication between them is often difficult." The result is an increased risk of redundant work and loss of information at a time when health care funding is tight. "I think at McGill we've got a pretty darn good system, but if we sit down around the table face-to-face once in awhile, then everyone will be further ahead, especially the patients."
The health care needs of Canadians call for a more communicative, team-oriented approach, according to Ezer. People with chronic illnesses need advice to help them get on with their lives. Here the challenge for a professional may be to hold one's tongue and listen while the patients and other professionals involved in their care have their say.
Interprofessional collaboration results in happier, more productive working environments. "It's a snowball effect," says. Purden. Not only does it result in better care for patients, workplace morale is boosted, too, making it easier to retain staff, resulting in other positive repercussions. "More creative changes are possible when you have a stable staff," she notes.