Patients’ Messages as Educators in an Interprofessional Health Education Program

Shelley Doucet, Heidi Lauckner, Sandy Wells


Background: Patients have traditionally played a passive role in health professional education. Health Mentors Programs are new, innovative interprofessional education initiatives that involve "health mentors" (volunteer community patient educators), who share their experiences navigating the healthcare system with an interprofessional team of four health professional students. The purpose of this research was to explore what motivated the patient educators to participate in the Dalhousie Health Mentors Program and what messages they wanted to instill in health professional students.

Methods: Data were collected through seven semi-structured focus groups (N = 29) and one individual interview (N = 1), which were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative inductive thematic analysis was used to identify key themes.

Findings: Our study demonstrated that patients want to play an active role in educating health professional students with the hope of improving the healthcare system. The mentors wanted to convey to the students the importance of interprofessional collaboration, understanding patients are people first, listening to patients, and understanding the visible and invisible impacts of living with chronic conditions.

Conclusions: If we expect our students to become competent in providing interprofessional, patient-centred care, it is important that we provide opportunities for patients to be actively involved in health professional education, as they have important messages that cannot be taught from a textbook.


Patient educators; Interprofessional education; Health professional education; Messages; Health Mentors Program

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