Tees-based learning: Learning about medicine and health via community placements
(21 July 2010)
The programme in Phase 1 medicine at Durham University is distinctive for the many opportunities it provides for students to experience patient contact and community-based healthcare early in their training. Central to these opportunities is the community-placement in which students spend time as participant-observer with a Teesside agency involved in health, education and social welfare. The aim of the scheme is to broaden students' experience of medicine in the community and understanding of health and welfare issues from the patient and provider perspective. Seeing health being 'done' in this way also helps students to better understand how social factors such as gender, class, housing and environment affect both health and health services.
The scheme at Durham is unique in its scope and duration. There are currently over 60 organisations offering placements to students ranging from public health to children's centres and special schools, mental health support groups to hospices. Students spend a full year working with their placement provider on a weekly basis.
This year the School of Medicine and Health hosted a one day event, funded by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Health North East (CETL4HealthNE), which brought together students, staff, placement providers and colleagues from other medical schools interested in community-based learning. The event was both an opportunity to celebrate the placement scheme and to begin to explore its effects on both students' and doctors' practice and on placement providers.
Dr Simon Forrest, one of the organisers of the event along with Dr Andrew Russell who helped to conceive it, and Dr Veronique Griffith who is working on a study of the schemes impact on students, said, 'It was great day. We were very pleased to see so many colleagues from the local community, the university and other medical schools. We all agreed that at its best community-based learning offers something to every one involved. Students get first-hand experience of how agencies work; what kinds of needs and concerns their future patients have and how they handle these. They also get to observe and practice important skills such as communication. For many it's a step well outside their previous experience and comfort zones. Placement providers can also benefit. Students can bring skills to their placement which can be employed to help the agency's work. The agency can get the benefit of a new pair of eyes helping them to reflect on their practice and to positively influence the knowledge, understanding and skills of future doctors'.
A full report on the event will be published later this year.