Interprofessional Observerships: An Educational Learning Experience about Developing Professional Understanding

For several years, our first-year medical students have had an opportunity to shadow a non-physician healthcare provider (e.g. registered nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, pharmacist, paramedic, social worker, dietician, among others) for a half day as part of their professional roles course.

An Instrumental Educational Opportunity

This educational opportunity, known as an “interprofessional observership”, is instrumental in helping future physicians understand their clinical roles. It also gives medical students a chance to explore the roles of the health-care providers who they will work alongside. How do nurses collaborate with doctors in providing care? What is the role of an occupational therapist? How to social workers provide support for patients and their families? Medical students get a chance to explore these questions and through hands-on experience, to see just how important each player’s role is in providing the best care for patients.





A Growing Program

In fact, with students and our hospital partners so enthusiastic about the interprofessional observership this year, we are offering students the opportunity to participate in an optional second observership. Dr. Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean Undergraduate Medical Education, championed this initiative several years ago. Initially, the program only involved nurses at one institution. However, over the last several years, the program has grown to include three Kingston hospitals (Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu Hospital, and Providence Care) and eleven different professional health-care provider groups. And starting in the 2017/2018 academic year, we will be piloting an advanced interprofessional observership at the Kingston Community Health Centre, where groups of students will observe a team-based interprofessional clinic in our community.

Challenging Assumptions

Most years, the interprofessional observerships have been preceded by an in-class brainstorming session, where medical students infer what various professionals’ roles might be. Following this, students are assigned to work with one of the available health care providers during curricular time. This practical experience allows students to act as ‘anthropologists’, observing for themselves what various health care providers actually do, day-to-day, as well as how they collaborate with patients, family members and other members of their team. 

At the end of the term, students reconvene to compare and debrief their experiences, making new lists of the roles and functions that they have observed, to be contrasted with their initial brainstorming. Invariably, the end-of-term descriptions are vastly different from what they initially thought . . . and that is the whole point.

Students end the year with a new perspective on teamwork, the roles of others and how they will foster collaboration with their future colleagues in health care.

Get In Touch

If you’re an international student interested in joining Queen’s University School of Medicine, reach out, and we’ll help you determine if Queen’s University School of Medicine is right for you. 

Name *