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Nursing students
Photo by Otago Polytechnic

Teaching teamwork

Lesley Brook —

A new initiative is expected to help New Zealand health professionals from different disciplines work together more collaboratively.

Health professionals usually work in teams, whether that's in a hospital or primary health care setting. Team members may come from different health professions, making their own specialised contribution to each patient's care. Collaboration between different members of a team is critical for patient care.

Otago Polytechnic, the University of Otago, and the Southern District Health Board have run a pilot programme to provide students with inter-professional education. Four students, one each from Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, came together for a four week placement at Dunedin Public Hospital.

Ian Crabtree, Head of our College of Health, was part of the group of researchers developing and then evaluating the pilot. They gathered feedback from the students involved, from staff on the ward and educators, and from patients. The students made decisions about patient care together, gaining understanding of each other's roles and also confidence in the value of their own contribution to the team. This experience is expected to help them to give and receive input in a multidisciplinary team, for improved decision-making and patient care. The goal is to provide all health students with such inter-professional experience to help prepare them for collaborative practice as health professionals.