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A model of interprofessionalism

Schulich Medicine faculty members working at the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA) are helping to build a more collaborative health care environment by using two basic skills: speaking and listening.

Through a unique program called DocTalks, faculty have an opportunity to discuss their work and areas of expertise, but also to listen to feedback, suggestions and questions from other health professionals.

With an emphasis on life-long learning, the program brings together physicians, nurses and allied health professionals for 30-minute afternoon sessions on a bi-monthly basis. Each session includes a presentation from a staff physician or topic expert followed by an informal question and answer period.

Established in 2015 to respond to the education needs identified by frontline staff at HPHA, DocTalks aims to improve patient care and build effective, collaborative relationships among health care teams.

More than 20 Schulich Medicine faculty members have delivered presentations since the program’s inception, and each session is attended by about 25 participants. Topics have ranged from sepsis to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to opioid overdose.

“DocTalks not only improves staff knowledge that is critical to quality patient care, it also affords the opportunity to build relationships between nurses, physicians, staff and the hospital,” said Dr. Shanil Narayan, Regional Academic Director for the School’s Huron-Perth Academy.

The initial idea for DocTalks came from Dr. Thomas Haffner, an internist and Schulich Medicine faculty member with the Department of Medicine, who wanted to support and improve team-based patient care.

While physicians play an important role in delivering the program, HPHA’s Clinical Nurse Educators are the driving force behind its success, helping to facilitate and promote the program to hospital staff.

“The program provides an outlet where nurses feel comfortable enough to ask physicians questions and contribute to a dialogue that is based on mutual respect for each other’s contribution to patient care,” said Tasha Vandervliet, a nurse educator and DocTalks organizer.

“Each talk has been very applicable to my professional practice and life, and I’m grateful we have such a great program in place at HPHA,” added Catherine Walsh, also a nurse educator and program organizer.

Demanding schedules and the distance between HPHA’s four hospital sites mean many nurses are unable to attend in person. To make the sessions more widely available, organizers now upload video recordings to YouTube.

As a key partner of Schulich Medicine’s Distributed Education program, HPHA trains medical learners at sites in Clinton, Seaforth, St. Mary’s and Stratford.

Interprofessionalism is a core component of the School’s undergraduate and postgraduate medical education curriculums. By participating in DocTalks, faculty members at HPHA represent the strong commitment to collaboration and knowledge sharing among health care teams, as well as life-long learning.

"The generous participation of physicians who prepare and deliver education content is appreciated. The dedication of the hospital nurse educators and administrators to facilitating the program is inspiring leadership," said Dr. Narayan. "With the shared goal of excellent patient care, we are creating sustainable, cost-efficient processes and contributing to a professional culture of respect."