As an individual with a chronic condition, from time to time an incident occurs that makes me think what a wonder it would be if health professionals involved in my care would collaborate more. I am sure that such a collaboration would give me confidence that management of my health is in control.
Depending on my current status, I am seen by a number of healthcare professionals including a GP, urologist, endocrinologist, gynecologist as well as physical- and occupational therapists—I know what a challenge collaboration can be. In 2011, I was asked to participate in a new program in collaborative care at UBC. The program was looking for mentors with chronic conditions to work with healthcare students from multiple disciplines. When I read that the goal of the program was to encourage health care collaboration, I thought that maybe this program was an opportunity to give back and possibly influence the direction of health care in the years to come.
I am now in my second year of volunteering for the UBC Interprofessional Health Mentor’s Program. The program offers first year students from various health disciplines the opportunity to collaborate with each other and a chronically challenged individual like myself. In my group, I have first year students from medicine, nursing, physical- and occupational therapy (just 4 of 9 possible disciplines). As the “expert” in my care and condition having lived with it for 62 years, my role is to help students learn how health care providers can support people with chronic conditions.
We meet 8 times over 16 months including an orientation, group sessions, and a symposium. In our group meetings we are presented with topics to discuss such as: words and meanings; living with and managing a chronic condition; experiences with the health care system; and partnerships, collaboration and shared decision making. It becomes more interesting as the year progresses because the students also bring their life experiences in to the table. They offer their observations gained from their practicums in various health care situations as real examples of how collaboration either works or not.
What do we learn? In the group sessions, I explain my knowledge and life experiences with my chronic condition and how I and the health professionals manage my needs and well-being. As you can imagine, each person in the group, including myself, come to understand the importance of the patient’s role as well of those of their health care professionals as real-life partners in the health care system.
The magnum opus is the symposium. We are encouraged to come up with a display that reflected what we have learned as a group. Try to imagine a hall with 50 poster boards illustrating various aspects of patient-/client-centred, interprofessional teamwork… it was mind-boggling. Subject matter covered the heath care gamut and more: lupus, communication, mental illness, stigma, and aphasia to list a few. To convey the impact of the posters in words is impossible, but all had a similar focus—the patient/user/client and the professional teamwork needed to support them. For a quick impression, here are some pictures of the event.
The program has been a resounding success. The first Health Mentor’s Program was piloted in the fall of 2011 with a 32 health mentors and 92 students from 6 different health and human service programs at UBC. In its second year, the program expanded to 51 mentors and 203 students and 9 disciplines.
For more information about the program, its objectives, participants, and contacts, see: http://www.chd.ubc.ca/dhcc/healthmentors