I spent some time last week in a twenty hour January mini-term experiment combining students and faculty from UMKC's School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, School of Dentistry, School of Medicine and School of Law. Our focus was on considering how to use personal narrative interviewing techniques to try to understand healthy, happy aging. Inter-professional training and education can also be something of an education in how other professional students understand their own roles and responsibilities and on how they propose to interact with other licensed professions. It can be incredibly revealing just to observe how students in the various licensed health professions think about wellness, aging, older people, people of modest means, and lawyers as problem solvers.
So many interesting observations on professional training and identity were offered by the students that I thought I might share a few of them here. Here's to the advanced medical student who, when asked to develop a few questions that might help him place an older individual in the context of a lifetime of health decisions, concerns and health successes, candidly observed "so, you're asking me to unlearn some of what I know." I won't forget the advanced pharmacy student who described her professional responsibility to "remember that everything can be poison" and that much depends on precision and caution in dosing. I was struck by the observation of one advanced dental student that people often come to the school's dental clinic deeply discouraged "to have lost their smile." Striking observations all.
My own thinking on what motivates people to enter licensed professions has been enriched by my time with these students and with all the generous with their time older individuals we interviewed this past week.
Empathy is a funny word, a slippery fish. I do not have an opinion on whether it can be taught but I do know it was revealed to me in unexpected moments last week.
x posted at Prawfs Blawg