My involvement with the IHI UNBC started quite naturally. Since the beginning of my undergraduate education, I had an interest in health care design and delivery, particularly in delivering equitable and culturally safe care. Like many, I have had my fair share of encounters with the health care system, as the patient, family member, and an outside observer. Not all encounters were positive and beneficial, and I found myself during those experiences thinking about what can be changed and how. In my third year, when I heard about the newly-formed IHI Open School School chapter at UNBC, I eagerly signed up and started learning about IHI and quality improvement. Throughout the past couple of years with the Chapter, I have had the opportunity to take part in several education and training sessions, as well as engage in efforts to grow our chapter. As Director of Internal Affairs, I collaborated with faculty and staff at UNBC and CNC to engage students in quality improvement. Since graduating from the Bachelor of Health Sciences program in May 2019, I have taken on an adviser role, supporting the chapter from a distance.
IHI Open School was a positive addition to my undergraduate education experience, and the knowledge, skills and experiences I gained through IHI continue to be useful in my postgraduate career and life. Through the chapter, I had the opportunity to meet and work with several driven and like-minded individuals. I believe all undergraduate students interested in healthcare should get involved with IHI. Here are my 3 reasons why!
1. Exposure to exclusive knowledge and experience outside the classroom setting
Prior to joining IHI UNBC, I did not know what quality improvement was. Through completing the IHI Open School Basic Certificate in Quality and Safety and taking part in training sessions such as the LEAN Yellow Belt through Northern Health, I was able to gain a depth of knowledge and skills in quality improvement. These education and training opportunities through IHI provided me an understanding of what quality improvement is, how it is conducted, and the various stages and activities involved in conducting quality improvement projects. Additionally, I started to think about processes in healthcare and other sectors (such as my life!) with a lens of continuous improvement, evaluation, and collaboration. IHI UNBC provided me the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge and skills that I could not get in the classroom setting.
2. Having a seat at the table
In the past, when I noticed issues and gaps within the system, I did not feel like I had the ability to do something. Through IHI UNBC, I had the opportunity to meet local leaders in quality improvement and to join the conversation about improving the system and delivering patient- and family-centred care. I gained the confidence to engage in these conversations and contribute my perspectives, something I was not able to do prior to joining IHI UNBC. Now, I don't shy away from having conversations about quality improvement.
3. Gaining knowledge and skills applicable to future education and careers
My experience with IHI goes beyond learning about quality improvement. I have gained critical skills that will be useful in my career, including engaging and developing relationships with stakeholders, interdisciplinary teamwork, and managing a blog and writing blog posts. Most importantly, through IHI, I have discovered an interest in quality improvement. In my current job position, I assist with a variety of health research studies and quality improvement projects. It has been great to apply my quality improvement knowledge and skills to local projects. I just started the Intermediate Quality Improvement and Green Belt training through Northern Health, and I look forward to growing my skill set and collaborating with local health professionals and health leaders.
If you are working towards a career in healthcare, it is very likely you will be involved in quality improvement at some point in your future. Quality improvement is a growing focus in our healthcare system, as we work together to create an adaptive, efficient, and sustainable system that ensures individuals have access to the best health and health care possible. I hope these three reasons sparked some interest in you! Joining IHI was one of the best decisions I made in my undergraduate education and encourage you all to get involved.