Southlake Regional Health Centre

Interprofessional Practice and Education Model gets top marks

A hospital, at its best, becomes an integral part of the lives of the community it serves. It grows alongside the community, evolving and changing as the needs of the community change.

Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont., understands its role in York Region and in the lives of its near 1.1 million residents. The region has grown significantly in the 85 years that Southlake has been its hospital and Southlake has changed along with it. In the tradition of a hospital that bends to deliver the best healthcare services available, Southlake is working to execute a stunning transformation from an advanced community-based hospital to a fully accredited teaching and research centre.

The transformation came as a result of the expansion of its advanced clinical programs, specifically in the areas of cardiac, cancer and thoracic surgery. A desire to leverage Southlake’s expertise into a top-tier university-affiliated teaching and research facility rounds out the ambitious program.

“Some of the features that our patients value the most are the high level of expertise and the exceptional quality of care they can access at Southlake, close to home,” says Annette Jones, Chief Nursing Officer at Southlake. “We are the only community-based hospital in Ontario to offer advanced cardiac, cancer and thoracic care. Having those high-level services close to home is of great benefit to the community.”

“What that has meant is that the kinds of services that we offer today lend themselves to the development of our future growth to become a teaching, academic and research centre,” she continues.

Southlake’s reputation as a leading provider of quality health care is already well established. Now, the hospital is expanding its expertise to include a new front-line teaching approach.

Collaborative approach to care

Southlake is embarking on an exciting new approach to education called Interprofessional Practice and Education—a teaching model that uses various members from health-related occupations with different educational backgrounds learning together during certain periods of their education with interaction as an important goal.

Interprofessional Practice learning means bringing together the entire team that will treat a patient: physicians, nurses, pharmacist, physical therapists, and other members of the healthcare team. Students and professionals learn from, with and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care, a holistic approach that lends itself to having the patient as their focus. For example, a cardiac condition may be examined from a genetic, environmental, pharmaceutical and nutritional perspective.

The new approach erases the divide amongst different professions and gives every member of the team the same access to information necessary to giving exemplary care. “Typically, physicians and nurses train separately—integrated teaching does away with silo teaching, in favour of an amalgamated educational program,” says Jones.

Southlake is welcoming some of the first generation Interprofessional Practice students now, who no longer have to compete for space and time with teachers in crowded city-centre hospitals. The structured model places students in clinical learning activities that allow them to experience inter-professional learning in an array of clinical settings. Activities focus on dialogue between professions, interview team members and participating in clinical diagnosis.

“Our teaching program is growing from a history of many years of teaching nurses, doctors and others on a smaller scale,” says Dr. Nancy Merrow, Chief of Staff, Southlake Regional Health Centre. “We have grown our nursing education program [for example] to serve over 400 nurses, which is amazing. We have a Family Medicine Residency Program affiliated with the University of Toronto, and we have learners in various medical specialties and other allied health disciplines in the organization at all times. To take it to the next level we decided we would take an innovated approach to finding a way to teach our professionals in teams much earlier than they would normally.”

The hospital’s exceptional educational and training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students will draw in the best and brightest, continuing on its goal to be a world-class facility. This collaborative approach between universities and Southlake will bring new and innovative solutions for patients.

Looking forward, Merrow says, “Southlake will be at the centre of a transition for the community into an academic and learning city with a constant influx of research opportunities, creating a core like a university would do for a community with new development, new creation and better services for the people who live there.”