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Radical innovation and cooperation are necessary if we are to be able to educate the right candidates for the future health sector. This was the conclusion of the debate on future competences for a constantly changing health sector held by CHI at the People’s Meeting 2018.
From their tent at the People’s Meeting the University of Copenhagen hosted the debate between educational institutions, health sector, industry and students on how we can future-proof the study programmes to meet the future need for competences. The debate on competences is interesting, because we are all – educational institutions, health sector and industry alike – trying to predict future needs in the short as well as in the long run.
The panel consisted of:
- Charlotte Hess, Head of Competence Development and Education – Health Care Professionals, Centre for Human Resources, Capital Region of Denmark
- Randi Brinckmann, Dean, Faculty of Health and Technology, University College Copenhagen
- Thomas Kongstad Petersen, Vice President, Global Clinical Operations, LEO Pharma
- Claas-Frederik Johannsen, Student of Medicine, President of FADL
- Anette Birck, Director, Copenhagen Health Innovation
‘The last 10, 20, 30 years, the healthcare system has seen extreme changes. We need to predict which competences the staff should have. What kind of a healthcare system are we training them to be part of? Not just their current competences, but also their future competences. We need to make some very deliberate choices about what we want to achieve’, said Head of Competence Development and Education – Health Care Professionals at the Centre for Human Resources in the Capital Region of Denmark Charlotte Hess to begin with.
Interdisciplinarity and Cooperation Will Be Vital in the Future
Precisely the fast development makes it difficult to match study programmes and health sector perfectly, but e.g. the ability to cooperate across professions is a main focus:
’We strive to make the students understand and acknowledge the results of interdisciplinary cooperation. This ability is in demand in society. In the future, health professionals will also help develop technologies and products together with the industry. They need to understand innovative processes. Because the healthcare system is seeing rapid technological development, it is extremely important that the technologies are useful in practice – that they can be used to improve the care and treatment of patients. This is one of the things we will be bringing into focus now. Though we have already begun, there is still a lot to be done’, said Dean Randi Brinckmann from the Faculty of Health and Technology at University College Copenhagen.
This addresses a need recognised by the industry represented by LEO Pharma:
‘Our business is translating highly specialised knowledge into new solutions and treatments. What is important with regard to the future is focussing on the mindset and personal competences to navigate in an interdisciplinary context. Health professionals must be able to manage projects, just as they must possess specialised professional competences. This is what we try to do and to promote’, said Vice President, Global Clinical Operations at LEO Pharma Thomas Kongstad Petersen.
Curricula Must Be Trimmed
Student of Medicine and President of FADL Claas-Frederik Johannsen also recognises the great changes affecting his future job:
‘Future doctors are us, the students. Being a doctor in the future will be different from being a doctor in the past. A couple of years from now, computers can calculate diagnoses and suggest treatments. This makes the patients well-prepared. It will change the doctor-patient relationship completely. We need to look at the way we educate doctors and other health professionals. We are always pressed for time in hospitals and at the university. The amount of knowledge is increasing. Before we introduce new interesting initiatives in the study programme, we need to take a look at the curricula and trim them closely, removing elements that are neither useful to the patients nor to science. This is a precondition for doing things differently; we cannot just add things’.
Randi Brinckmann from University College Copenhagen agreed:
‘You are so right! I agree completely. We forget that with the introduction of technology some basic knowledge is no longer a necessity. It is not just a matter of producing new content within the existing structure. We need to consider new curricula structures that describe what the students should be trained for’, she said. She recently helped adjust the curricula of nine study programmes in close cooperation with the future employers. ‘And do you know what the result was? A series of curricula that to a large degree resembled the previous ones. So we need to do something radical. We need to get the employers, the industry, not just life science, but also the technological companies on board. We need to involve them in the innovation work, and we need to help each other do so’.
Even though rethinking curricula is a complex process, it is nevertheless what it takes. Thus, Claas-Frederik Johannsen explained how the study programme in medicine, from his point of view, should shift its focus.
’We need to focus less on fingertip knowledge and more on the academic competences, ensuring that we learn to think in abstract problems and are able to look for new knowledge’.
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Closer Cooperation for Lifelong Learning
Anette Birck, Director of Copenhagen Health Innovation, acknowledges that adjusting the study programmes and meeting the needs of the employers is a long process, but a lot can be done on an ongoing basis by coupling the study programmes and the health sector and industry closer together.
’In the long run, rethinking the study programmes is a challenge, and one way of doing so is increasing the educational institutions’ contact with the employers by sending the students out to work with concrete problems in the health sector. This will help increase the students’ understanding of the reality they will face after graduation. It will give them an innovative mindset and an interdisciplinary understanding of how they can cooperate with other professions in the health sector or industry’.
Thomas Kongstad Petersen from LEO Pharma agrees that interaction with industry must increase via a different forum than the usual employer panels. But he also recognises a different need:
’Knowledge dates rapidly, and therefore we also need to look at ongoing continuing education. Not long after we have welcomed new nurses or laboratory technicians, their knowledge is dated. And when we welcome graduates who have spent a long time at university, it takes them a while to adjust to working in the industry. We need to get together and work out how we can do this at a national level’.
Here Charlotte Hess suggested an initiative to increase interdisciplinary cooperation:
‘With regard to cooperation, we need to establish clinical learning environments where we actually bridge the gap between academia and practice. A place where it is okay to practise and make mistakes, but where it does not affect patient safety, because there are no real patients involved. As clinical learning environments, where students get to practise, and as lifelong learning, where you can reboot your core professional competences on an ongoing basis’, she said.
’The Only Way to Do This Is Together’
After the debate, Anette Birck from CHI summarised what she took with her from the interdisciplinary debate:
‘The panel largely agreed that we want to increase our cooperation on shaping the future study programmes. It is very important. If we want to introduce some kind of agility into the study programmes, we need to do so together – the educational institutions, the health sector and the industry. The only way to do this is together!’, Anette Birck stressed.