Inter-Professional Spurning

On Friday I finished the practical aspect of a degree module called “Inter-Professional Learning” (IPL). For two weeks every academic year, healthcare students from Southampton and Portsmouth University are bundled together into groups of 10 and given a project to do. IPL “strives to improve communication and working relationships between professionals, and helps them deliver high quality services in increasingly challenging times.” The idea being that if doctors, nurses, podiatrists, radiographers etc work together before they qualify, it will hopefully enable them to work together even more smoothly throughout their careers.

Unfortunately my experience of IPL has taught me very little about other healthcare professions (except pharmacists, which I’ll come to later) and in most cases it has reinforced some stereotypes that I know aren’t true.

For example, all of the medical students I have worked with on IPL have been incredibly self important and made it very clear that they had much better things to do (as if the rest of the group desperately wanted to be there) and in a few cases they even went as far as not bothering to show up. The male med student in the first year showed up on day 1 and day 14, and spent the time in between playing rugby somewhere in Europe.

Until this year, all of the social work students in my group have been paranoid and defensive, an attitude which can’t have been helped by the introductory lecture we had at the beginning of the first IPL which basically reminded everyone that people always blame social workers when a child is hurt or killed. I’m sure this was meant to be helpful, but it put my group’s social work student into a really foul and indignant mood.

The nurse from IPL1 was an alt-med nutter who insisted that humans don’t need vaccines as homeopathy is a much more effective and safe method of protecting yourself. Terrifying.

So yes, I am cynical about the effectiveness of IPL in its mission to improve communication and attitudes within a multi-disciplinary team. Especially bearing in mind I had the best IPL-like experience anyone could wish for whilst living in the Pokhara house; working, resting and playing with healthcare professionals from all over the world. I learnt more about what nurses and doctors do in that month that I have done over the duration of my entire degree so far. I was hugely impressed by their knowledge, and I really enjoyed our dinner conversations about the day we’d just had.

Last year on IPL2 I did actually learn a fair bit about pharmacy, but it had nothing to do with IPL itself. It was in the car journeys to the placement site, where the pharmacist and I had many really interesting conversations about the legal side to the profession, as well as discussing the vast amount of mathematical prowess required.

I follow a few medics on Twitter; some are students, some are long-qualified, and some have only just registered with the GMC. They all regularly provide me with really interesting information about their profession and healthcare in general, and there’s even a Twitter journal club where papers are reviewed and critiqued by anyone with an interest.

I have never felt compelled to stay in touch with any IPL group member once the sessions have finished, but this weekend I’m driving over 500 miles for a reunion with my Pokhara housemates (those on this side of the Atlantic anyway).

I suppose what I’m saying is that healthcare workers and students need to be personally interested in engaging with each other, as no amount of forced role-playing or ice breaking sessions will achieve a truly cohesive working environment. It is a sad fact of life that some people are content to go through their lives with the bare minimum of effort and interest, and I guess that’s why IPL has to exist. But at least those people will never become public health bores like me.


2 Comments on Inter-Professional Spurning

  1. Alex
    June, 27th 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Hi Cherry,

    I’m a prospective student looking to start Radiography at Portsmouth, finding your thoughts very informative.

    What is Pokhara? Some sort of exchange program?

  2. Cherry Black
    June, 27th 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Pokhara is a town in Nepal where I worked for 3 weeks as an elective placement.
    Good luck with the degree, and Portsmouth Uni is an excellent place to do it.

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