Apr 15, 2011

Health care in the future – what can we do as students?

It’s 12:15 PM and the first students have already arrived for the first student event in Denmark. We take it as a good sign and place different colour pieces of paper on the chairs so we can get started. The different colors match the different professional groups of the students we’ve invited; these include nursing, medicine, pharmacy, public health, and health administration. We kick off the conference with a short welcome on why we have gathered these students together followed by an overview of what we will accomplish over the next three hours. We invited the students under the headline “Health care in the future – what can we do as students?”

The Danish health care system is under pressure. A large number of people are being harmed each year by our health care system. As we tell the other students, we’re sure that they can find many solutions on how to decrease the pressure, but we have chosen an approach that focuses on the interdisciplinary potential there is – an interdisciplinary understanding that should start on the universities. Because harm is often associated with a lack of good communication across the different work areas – and that’s something we want to work on.

We started with an icebreaker. Fist, we ask the students to pair up, face each other, and give each other three compliments. It may seem a bit overwhelming, when they haven’t met before, but it also brings a lot of laughter to the room. Next, we ask them to turn around and change three things about their appearance. After doing these, the pairs face each other once again and point out what the other person has changed. We finish the exercise by showing a YouTube video – you should check it out – and maybe you will understand the meaning of the exercise.

The icebreaker is followed by another short activity; we divide the students into three groups and ask one group to come up with a bias, challenge, and improvement idea for our healthcare system. There is a great discussion among the students.

Then, we moved to the presentations. Two members of the IHI Open School team, Shannon Mills and Carly Strang, spoke about the different opportunities offered by the IHI Open School for our student network. “Why it is urgent and why must we work together?” is the headline of our next guest speaker Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Lead for Quality, Scotland. He gave a terrific presentation - a mix of interesting ways to highlight the problems in our health system. During one of the exercises, we were told, “You’re in charge of health care in Denmark for at day. What would you do?” Some of the responses included “I would make dentist visit free for everyone,” “I would have one IT system for everything,” etc. In fact, you can see his presentation on our website.

After a short break, Torben Mogensen, Vice President of Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark, gave a presentation about the culture of quality improvement and patient safety – he focused on why we need to engage current health professionals AND students.

Our last presentation is given by a patient ambassador named Gunhild Warming, who shares how she lost her daughter 18 years ago. After giving birth to her child, Gunhild’s daughter received the wrong type of blood, which led to her death. Her very touching story not only paints the picture of the terrible errors that happened, but also how the health professionals handled the situation afterwards.

We end the day with a discussion of what the students have learned from the different presentations and how, if any, of their list of biases, challenges and improvements have changed since the beginning of the day.

Looking back, it was a very successful three hours with the students and speakers. It showed us what great potential there is for our interprofessional network of students. Together, we can discuss challenges and ideas for improving quality and safety before entering the health care system.

- Cecilie Hjermind Hjelmager, Student in Copenhagen, Denmark