Multiprofessional education in action

August 4, 2000

St George's and Kingston University

From next month, 187 medical students, 35 biomedical science students, 40 physiotherapists, 40 diagnostic radiographers, 12 therapeutic radiographers and 30 nurses will study together for a term on a common foundation programme run by St George's and Kingston University. (For logistical reasons, the programme does not include the nursing students starting diploma courses.) The 344 students on the programme will learn basic anatomy via problem-based learning and teamwork.

St George's also runs special study modules that bring together different professions to look at topics such as vaccinations.

"The push towards multiprofessional education has come from the top," said Michael Pittilo, dean of the faculty of health and social care sciences. "The evidence base to show that it produces good doctors and nurses is thin. It will be a decade before we know if the changes put in place, including the new model of nurse education, have been successful."

None the less, the medical school is committed to the approach. Frank Hay, who runs the common foundation programme, said: "Students and staff enjoy it enormously. I think staff find it very liberating. We do want to carry out some research into its effectiveness."

Kath Start, deputy dean of the faculty, said: "The borderlines between the different professions have been too rigid for a long time."

Leeds and Bradford universities

The universities of Leeds and Bradford hope, under the plans for 1,000 more medical places, to be able to run an access course for medicine.

"The course, while largely for medics, will have places for those hoping to go into other professions," said Colin Mellors, senior pro vice-chancellor at Bradford. "It will be multiprofessional, with mutiple exit pathways."

David Cottrell, director of learning and teaching at the school of health in Leeds, said: "We intend to ring-fence about 20 places for students from this access course."

Some will enter year one of a medical degree, others will go into year two.

Southampton University

At Southampton, medics, nurses, midwives, occupationa therapists, physiotherapists and podiatrists are all taught in one faculty. As at St George's and Kingston, the students study together for certain parts of their courses.

Dame Jill Macleod Clark, professor of nursing at Southampton's faculty of medicine and health, said: "This could be described as a piecemeal approach - it is one we want to move on from."

The faculty has just advertised for staff to join its "new generation" project. "The idea is to build a modular programme with common modules across different professional groups. Communication skills is an obvious one. We want to take a fresh look at competences and outcomes, look at what the different professions actually do and build on it.

"There is a lot of commonality between the jobs of junior doctors and nurses - we need to take a fresh look at who is doing what."

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