Written by: Madeline Kubiseski, Master of Health Administration
Jacquie Thillaye and Emily Armstrong are Simulated Patient Educators in the Centre for Collaborative Clinical Learning and Research (C3LR), providing programming support for the faculties of medicine, dentistry and health. They have been heavily involved the Indigenous Health Program through various programs and the health sciences youth summer camps. I had the opportunity to sit down with Jacquie and Emily to learn more about their experience with the Indigenous Health Program.
Can you describe your role in the C3LR as simulated patient educators?
As simulated patient educators, we support the simulation side of programming for the Faculties of Medicine, Health and Dentistry. We focus on educational design and implementation for experiential learning to ensure the simulation meets the needs of the faculty and the faculty members designing the program. We assist with the development of the program and the case studies to meet the specific, and often changing, programming needs. We also focus on communication skills and help to create a safe learning environment, where our simulated patients learn how to provide feedback to the student learners. Lastly, we work on design and implementation of assessment using simulated encounters.
Overall, simulation fills a huge gap between learning and practice, allowing students to practice their skills in a safe space before entering the clinical setting.
What has been your experience working with the Faculty of Medicine’s Indigenous Health Program?
Our experience working with the Faculty of Medicine’s Indigenous Health Program has primarily been through the youth health sciences camps. In our roles we have also reached out to the program to help us find simulated patients from the Indigenous community to meet specific requirements and to build a more diverse, representative group of simulated patients. We also run a specific program called Parent Tot, where parents bring their children in to allow medical and/or nursing students to work with them. We really needed to increase our diversity in that program, and Joe MacEachern, the program manager of the Indigenous Health Program, was a very big help in sending out the message to increase participation. We are continuously working with Joe to increase our diversity of simulated patients, but we still have a long way to go.
What are the benefits of having Indigenous participants participate in your program? What have been some of the challenges and successes of this?
One of the benefits is that we are striving to be reflective of the community as much as possible and offer a presence for the students to recognize the importance. There isn’t a whole lot of programming that is specific to the Indigenous community in terms of simulation, but we are hopeful that will be coming.
Additionally, it has been a great benefit to our staff, faculty and simulated patients themselves who are seeing our pool of participants change and seeing the increased diversity and representation.
Also, from a training perspective, when you are in the room of simulated patients from various backgrounds, it increases the discussion and perspectives of the case.
Some of the challenges we have faced have been around recruiting and retention. We find that those who are keen to join are often people who are being tapped into for many other initiatives and are very busy. They are very engaged in their community and comfortable participating in these situations. Recruiting and retaining more Indigenous simulated patients is something we are working on for the future.
One of the major successes we have seen is the number of Indigenous people in the health profession. In addition to simulated patients we also have standardized health professionals, and we have seen an increased diversity in these health professionals, and we have great representation in that as well. We have received the most feedback from the standardized Indigenous health professionals about how happy they are be part of this program, and to have the students see themselves in these roles.
Medical and health problems present in every community and we need to make sure we have people in roles that reflect every community. We are continuously working towards this.
What changes have you seen over the years of involvement with this program?
Overall the growth of the Indigenous Health program with the number of students, the number of camps, and how far they are reaching has been very impressive. We are also now seeing some students from the camps express interest in becoming simulated patients or students in the university which has been great. The students in the camps are coming each year and are so excited about entering the health professions and see themselves in these roles to give back to their community.
How long have you been participating in the Indigenous Health Sciences Camp programs? As an experienced camp program facilitator, what has been your experience working with the Indigenous youth participants?
We have been working with the Health Sciences Camp since they began. Working with the youth in these camps has been very interesting experience seeing the students grow and come back each year. We often see some of the same students coming back and we are able to see their growth, increased engagement, and strong interest in the health professions. Through the camps we also see the students picturing themselves here at Dalhousie in the health professions one day.
What future changes would you like to implement or see happen? I.e. bigger groups? More indigenous facilitators? More regular camps for this group? Longer camps?
We would love to see increased growth of the program. We want to continue to develop the curriculum for all the different schools to implement more around Indigenous health. Additionally, we also try to highlight the Indigenous research that is ongoing and the various opportunities for Indigenous students to get involved and perhaps lead the research themselves.
I know our role is to expose the students to new opportunities but what have you learned from working with this group?
We have learned so much through the increased contact with people from the Indigenous community and the students themselves. For example, learning what smudging truly is, when it is done, why it is done, and that there are no rooms to do this at the hospital.
Developing awareness goes both ways; the students learn and develop awareness of opportunities in the health professions, and we learn about the communities and the specific needs of the communities.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
The best part about this role are all of the different people that we get to work with; not only the simulated patients, but everyone from the community, inside and outside of Dalhousie, the students, and the learners are constantly changing. The job itself is constantly changing and challenging and we are continuously learning from the students and the Indigenous Health Program. We never stop learning and we do feel like we are contributing in a meaningful way!
For more information on the Indigenous Health Program.
For more information on the Centre for Collaborative Clinical Learning and Research.
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