In my blog last week, reporting on the College of Medicine “Challenging Dementia” Summer School, I said that many of the students had made specific pledges at the end of our Whose Shoes?® workshops.
Several of those pledges involved writing articles for student newsletters and / or guest blogs for me! Thank you very much Vicky, Alex, Abigail and Iraj. It was a real pleasure to work with such engaged students, really passionate about improving the lives of people living with dementia…
What makes a conference worth attending? An interesting topic? A weekend away?, Great catering? All are applicable to the Dementia Summer School but most of all we enjoyed meeting other students from many different professions and universities. Before this conference none of us had met but we soon got to know each other very quickly by chatting at lunch and dinner. As well as on the walk back to the accommodation where physiotherapists suddenly come in very handy when one of us fell over. After the conference we came together via email to write this article about our experience of the conference and how we believe inter-professional working is at the heart of health care.
The Importance of Interprofessional Working In Healthcare: Challenging Dementia Conference 2013
The first thing we are taught as students studying Health and Social Care subjects is the importance of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). The MDT works collaboratively to achieve the common goal of delivering the best possible care for the patient.
University Of Birmingham ‘Challenging Dementia Summer School’ hosted by the College of Medicine this September was one very successful example of inter-professional working in undergraduate students. Students from across the UK attended from a range of disciplines including medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, social work, dietetics and pharmacy. Not only was there a mix of disciplines but also a range of age, race, culture and year of training. This was truly interprofessional working at its finest.
The conference started with inspiring lectures delivered by experts in their fields with time at the end for question and answer sessions. The experts ranged from service users explaining about how they are coping with early onset dementia through non-pharmaceutical treatments, Professor Banerjee who made the importance of early diagnosis in the treatment for dementia jump off the page and Dr Saad advocating dementia awareness to be taught in schools. We found that the presentations which spoke to us the most were from the heart as well as mind. We all felt inspired by the passion and knowledge of the guest speakers and how they are all working to change the lives of dementia patients.
To end the first day there was a conference dinner presented with the humour and grace of Michael Chowen. Earlier in the day nine students had presented their research into dementia and the winner was announced as Hannah Price a medical student who had researched into type two diabetes and its correlation with Dementia.
Now we had gained the knowledge of Dementia the second day of the conference was taught in practical format, exploring the perspectives of those who have dementia. In Maizie Mears–Owens (Care UK) workshop we walked in the shoes of the person with dementia by viewing life from their perspective in a number of activities such as sensory deprivation and being put into unfamiliar environments. In Gill Phillips’s (Whose Shoes) workshop we were enabled to think critically about treating a dementia patient, question assumptions and myths and be made aware of the barriers in diagnosis and treatment for dementia patients. We also learned from a service user that a lack of a diagnosis of dementia can hinder support and treatment.
The conference was valuable to everyone who attended not just for the fantastic weekend but for all of our careers now and in the future. We have realised that students need to be given chances to work inter-professionally in University so we can understand each other’s roles in a patients care and in the MDT. The conference organisers and speakers made us feel welcome no matter what discipline to voice our opinions and it was inspiring to see so many people who were interested in dementia and the care of older people.
We would like to thank all the guest speakers that attended, all the organisations involved, the hard work of Kate Fismer and Ellie Crossley and a very special thanks to the College Of Medicine and Michael Chowen.
Our take home messages;
- There is a person behind the diagnosis. Patient cantered care where they have choice and control.
- Dementia is NOT a natural part of aging.
- The cost of Dementia is greater than the cost of cancer, heart disease and stroke combined.
- A loss of memory is not a loss of life.
- More dementia teaching is needed in healthcare curriculums
- To create a caring community we need the young and old to learn about dementia, break down the stigma and raise awareness.
We urge everyone to make a pledge to challenging dementia. It is our responsibility as healthcare professionals to have a good knowledge about dementia as the older population is growing and dementia is becoming more prominent. A pledge may be something as simple as learning about other professional roles, finding out about local dementia services or going the extra mile for a patient.
Now is the time to stop talking and start taking action!
Vicky Reynolds-Cocroft, Physiotherapy student, University Of East Anglia
Alex Ocampo, Nursing Student, University Of East Anglia
Abigail Howson , Medical Student, University of Leeds
Iraj Talash, Pharmacy student, Kingston University London