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How students at the University of Manchester are promoting inter-professional education

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Recently, inter-professional education (IPE) has become a more important and popular part of the undergraduate healthcare curriculum. It is imperative for future pharmacists to understand the roles of their professional colleagues in order to understand how they can best support the wider healthcare team and patients. In 2013, the Healthcare Alliance Society (HEAL) was founded by a group of healthcare students. The inter-professional education society aimed to create more opportunities for students to experience IPE.

The committee, which is re-elected each year, is formed of healthcare students from an assortment of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, speech and language therapy, midwifery and optometry. The committee arrange numerous events each year, ranging from lectures to healthcare-based quizzes that focus on a variety of issues, but the most popular event is the annual clinical skills evening.

The clinical skills evening is open to any student from any healthcare course, with a maximum capacity of around 80 people. The same number of tickets is distributed to each profession, to ensure there is a good mix of students and to prevent the event being dominated by one particular discipline. When students arrive at the event, they are split into small groups of seven or eight, with no more than two students from the same course in each group. This gives students the opportunity to network with students from other healthcare courses and learn about their colleagues’ roles within the healthcare sector.

The event consists of several different stations at which each group spends 15 minutes. At the event in 2016, the stations included:

  • an introduction to optometry
  • delivering a baby in an emergency situation
  • tablet crushing
  • swallowing assessments
  • how to do a handover using the SBAR (Situation, background, assessment, recommendation) technique in both primary and secondary care
  • how to recognise hypoglycaemia in a patient
  • an introduction to drug misuse, including a demonstration of safe heroin injection techniques.

Other stations in the past have included pharmacy bingo (using drug names), nasogastric tube insertion and care, medication safety and first aid.

There is overwhelming demand for the clinical skills evening; tickets sell out as soon as they are released. Students are willing to attend such events because they are passionate about patient care and know interacting with other health professionals early on in their careers will allow them to become confident communicators in practice, which will improve the care they provide to patients.

Elin Turnton, a pharmacy student who attended the event, said: “The session allowed me to understand the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships between pharmacists and other health professionals as we work together so closely and are all depended upon by patients and the public.’

Staff at the University of Manchester are supportive of the society and not only provide funding for it, but sacrifice their own time to come and help out at the events or to attend to show their support.

So, if you are a pharmacy student and you feel you want to do more IPE during your degree, why don’t you set up a similar society? You will find there are students on other courses thinking in a similar way and, thanks to the power of social media, they will not be difficult to find.

You can meet like-minded people and learn about aspects of healthcare you may not get to see in your daily practice. It is also great to mention during interviews — employers love to see students who are engaged and passionate about effective communication and multidisciplinary team working.

Five top tips on how to set up an inter-professional education society

1. Find out the rules and regulations on setting up your own society by asking your students’ union

2. Request to be added to Facebook groups set up for other healthcare student societies from your university and see if anyone is interested in helping you set up the society

3. Express your interest about setting up an inter-professional education society to academics to see if they can offer support or funding

4. Get a Fresher’s Fair stall to spread the word about your new society and to encourage members to sign up

5. Try to pick topics for events that will be of interest to all disciplines so as not to isolate any students from the experience

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