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Turning Healthcare around

Turning Healthcare around: Health professionals learning together makes for better healthcare

How many times have you told your story over and over again to health professionals? Poor communication between clinicians can turn health care into a bad experience.

The University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) is turning this around through an interprofessional education (IPE) programme introduced in recent years for students across the disciplines – dietetics, medicine, physiotherapy, and radiation therapy. This year pharmacy interns have also been included in the Wellington campus programme.

“Many of the complaints investigated by the Health and Disability Commissioner are judged to be related to poor communication between the different disciplines,” says Associate Professor McKinlay from Primary Health at UOW.
Traditionally, medical and other health programmes learn within their own discipline, but in the real world they need to work closely with other health professionals to treat patients effectively and resolve health issues.

“Interprofessional training seems an obvious solution but it is not usual for different health professional disciplines to be taught together,” Associate Professor McKinlay says.

For three weeks in March, 64 health professional students learned together to better understand how to manage patients with “long-term health conditions” and their roles in giving team-based care. With an ageing population, long-term condition management is becoming a major burden on society.

Patients with long-term conditions were recruited by local general practices and visited in their homes by small interprofessional groups.

Pharmacy intern programme manager Debbie Wallace, from the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand says they were enthusiastic at the chance to bring the pharmacy interns into the existing IPE programme.

Debbie Wallace says: “Our pharmacy interns enjoyed the experience especially discussing how to provide collaborative care and visiting a patient at home. Our interns were able to talk with other disciplines about the pharmacist’s role in medicines’ management and the other students shared their skills.”

Associate Professor McKinlay adds that it’s essential in today’s changing healthcare environment for health professionals to understand each other’s roles and to communicate and collaborate effectively.

“The programme helps students and interns collaborate across the health disciplines, and improves outcomes for patients and the community. IPE provides a way to work together more effectively. We know IPE programmes help when students get out into the real world and work as health professionals together,” she says.

For information about IPE programmes at the University of Otago, Wellington:

For more information about IPE at Otago:


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