Developing and sustaining non-clinical community-based learning can pose a number of challenges.
As I have shown in this blog, a lack of clarity about expectations can cloud experience from either a provider or student perspective. Some students can be slow to ‘get’ the purpose of non-clinical engagement with the community. Organisations can experience structural or strategic change disrupting continuity around sustaining placements. The convulsions associated with managing resources in a tough funding climate can impinge on capacity. Organisations can find it hard to plan for student absence associated with holidays, exam periods, indeed, hoe and why should the be aware of what the cycle of the academic year looks like. Students may arrive at University with little sense of local geography and culture and find it difficult to take these factors into account when choosing or expressing a preference for a placement. It can be difficult to create ways for students to share their experiences and furthermore, there is lots going in the community that might be of interest both to them, other community-based organisations and academics.
We have faced all these issues and more at Durham.
One of our responses has been to try and improve the flow of information between the university, students and the community. This will not resolve all the challenges but it may make us better aware of them and better able to respond. The newest medium through which we seek to to this is our newsletter. Through this we pull together articles, news items, information and reflections from students, staff and community-based organisations on community-based learning in medical education with a focus on our community placement scheme.
The newsletter is driven from our Community Placement Steering Committee, which comprises elected student representatives, representatives of community-based organisations that offer placements and members of academic staff. This is a powerful and energetic committee which not only has strategic and operational oversight of placements but has positioned itself as active in driving developments and projects to improve placement experience, community links and student learning. The idea of a newsletter emerged from discussion of student and placement provider feedback.
It costs under £300 to produce and is distributed via small print run (200 copies) and electronically to all current students, a range of University staff as well as those in Medicine and Health, and all our current community partners. We have targeted local health services and included contacts in local government in the distribution list. We will also be including new students prior to enrollment from this year.
The first edition was produced under the Committee’s editorial guidance. Our aspiration that the next edition will be compiled and edited by a student and provider-led sub-committee. I am hoping that the next edition will contain some articles from both Australian colleagues and those in Durham and thereby provide not only an opportunity for sharing experiences but collaboration in co-production.
You can read the first edition of the newsletter by following this link CP: Beyond the Science or see the text laid out here in the form of a powerpoint slideshow
If you would like to contribute, have any news or events that you would like us to consider promoting, please do get in touch.