When working in healthcare, it can sometimes feel like you’re alone in your routine: heading to and from a long shift alone, or carrying out regular tasks by yourself when you’re on shift.
Sometimes, the only collaborative elements of a shift occur when a patient experiences an adverse reaction or an interprofessional care team convenes to discuss a diagnosis.
So how can you practice collaboration – and utilise its benefits – in lower-stakes situations while still working towards a professional goal? You can do this by integrating collaboration into your learning!
Why is collaborative learning important in healthcare?
Collaborative learning can make it easier to focus, be a more enjoyable learning experience, and can allow you to engage with varying ideas and perspectives.
However, it also has deeper and more practice-based effects. Collaborative learning enhances work-based problem-solving skills, develops bonds amongst team members and improves cultural awareness.
To read more about the importance, benefits and examples of collaborative learning in healthcare, have a look at this Handover article: The Power of Collaborative Learning | Ausmed
Collaborative activities for you and your colleagues!
Solving case studies
Case studies are a great, relatively unstructured way to discuss relevant issues while working together as a team. These can be completed with colleagues in the same profession/line of work as you or with people from other professions (after all, interprofessional care is a core tenet of modern healthcare).
Follow this link to the NPS MedicineWise repository of clinical case studies here: Case Studies for Nurses and Midwives | NPS MedicineWise.
It’s as simple as it sounds: you get together with a colleague or a friend who also works in healthcare, and you discuss a problem, recent experience or clinical exercise.
This differs from other similar collaborations such as informal learning groups, stumping and solving case studies because, firstly, it’s far easier to organise and, second, it’s a great way to more directly strengthen professional bonds with other individuals on your team.
Thousands of years ago, the Roman philosopher Seneca said, ‘while we teach, we learn.’ This is still true today: the Protégé Effect has been proven by researchers time and time again that teaching others about a certain topic is a great way to consolidate learning (Paul, 2011).
What’s more, when the people you’re teaching ask you questions, this stretches, strengthens and deepens your understanding of the topic in terms of practice and theory.
As an aside, this is also a great way to practice your public speaking skills. As you progress in your career, you may be drawn towards education, advocacy or policy work – all three of these avenues require a level of comfort when imparting knowledge to large interactive groups.
Simulations are proven to directly improve patient care and outcomes when conducted by healthcare professionals. When healthcare professionals partake in simulations, malpractice becomes less frequent, healthcare costs are reduced, and professional confidence is increased (IDS Med, 2018).
Additionally, simulations allow healthcare professionals to acknowledge the importance of making mistakes. Mistakes teach you how to rectify issues and respond to adverse reactions, which is a core part of working in a high-stakes environment like healthcare.
Organise week-long problem-solving extravaganzas
You could take it upon yourself to create a case study or applied issue but only drip-feed information to the people who are completing it.
For example, maybe you post something onto your ward’s Facebook group that explains a new development in a mystery patient’s diagnosis. By the end of the week, you get everyone to comment what they think it might be - and then you publish the final diagnosis and see who got it right!
If only a few people in your team use social media, you could also host it in your tea- or break-room. You could set up a box for people to drop their answers into (along with their names), and then at the end of the week you can reward those who picked the right diagnosis.
Informal collaborative learning groups
This could just be a group of colleagues who meet up every fourth Sunday to complete two hours of CPD as a group before heading over to their local pub for a meal, or a soft invitation for people to come to a coffee shop twice a week to complete an online course together.
This is a great way to introduce new members of the team to others while keeping everything work-oriented. Book out a room at your local library (it’s free!) and bring some lollies. It’s easy, quick and there’s a guaranteed reward in the shape of a parma (or a delicious cappuccino) at the end.
A group project
If dark memories of school group projects are flooding your mind right now, don’t be put out! As we investigated in this piece – Learning As An Adult: How is it different? – the way that adults learn is completely different to the way children do, so your group project nightmares are not likely to repeat themselves.
The main benefit of completing group projects as a healthcare practitioner is the heavily theoretical basis of the information: instead of a case study or a simulation, group projects can isolate interesting or important elements of a condition that could spark connections with other conditions, general discussion or even further education.
Presenting your project is as important as completing the project itself, and having peers ask you questions on the topic is also a great way to test your own knowledge and reinforce it by teaching it to others.
As silly as the name for this may sound, stumping can be incredibly fun! All you have to do is come up with a question that you think will be really hard to answer, and then you let your colleagues try to solve it.
This can be as informal as posing the question to your colleague during a lull in your shift or as structured as posting it on the wall in the tea room to see who can answer it first.
How else can you learn more effectively?
Collaboration is a great way to get more enjoyment and engagement out of your learning – but sometimes you do need to do it alone to get the most out of that specific activity.
To learn more about effective solo learning, have a look at the following Handover articles:
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Al-Elq, A.H., 2010. ‘Simulation-based medical teaching and learning.’ J Family Community Med, vol. 17, no. 1. Accessed 28 July 2022 via https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195067/
IDS Med, 2018. ‘The Importance of Simulation Training in Healthcare.’ IDS Med: News. Accessed 28 July 2022 via https://www.idsmed.com/en-en/news/the-importance-of-simulation-training-in-healthcare/275.html
Paul, A.M., 2011. ‘The Protégé Effect.’ TIME. Accessed 28 July 2022 via https://ideas.time.com/2011/11/30/the-protege-effect/