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Tips for using students during times of change in health care: lessons from the literature and from practice

Authors Kumar S, Lensink IL, Turnbull C

Received 9 May 2017

Accepted for publication 5 July 2017

Published 27 July 2017 Volume 2017:8 Pages 535—540


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Robert Robinson

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder

Saravana Kumar,1 Ingrid L Lensink,2 Catherine Turnbull2

1School of Health Sciences, Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia; 2Office for Professional Leadership, SA Health, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Background: It is often said that the only constant in health care is change. While change is inevitable, implementing change in health care is complex, and health care stakeholders are often confronted by numerous barriers and challenges. Historically, students have been an integral part of the health system through aspects such as clinical placements, and hence, may play a role during times of change.
Aim: The aim of this study is to provide strategies for using students as positive agents of change by discussing opportunities and highlighting challenges.
Method: The tips proposed in this commentary are derived from the literature, identified using a systematic search, and from our experiences at the “coal face” of engaging students during times of change.
Results: This article highlights specific challenges, targeted opportunities, and critical success factors of using students as agents of change. Students can play an important role in enhancing service provision, providing opportunities for staff recognition, and being enablers to drive, implement, and evaluate change in the health system and wider community. However, in order to achieve these positive impacts, it is imperative to recognize and address staff concerns early and build upon a number of critical success factors. These critical success factors such as inter-sectoral engagement, clarity, collaboration, support, training, resources, and ongoing evaluation can “make or break” students’ involvement in a health service, and therefore, careful and regular consideration of these factors is recommended.
Conclusion: We believe that these tips, synthesized from evidence from the literature and our first-hand experiences, will assist health care stakeholders in utilizing students as timely, effective, and practical agents of change.

Keywords: students, change agents, health service delivery, partnership, leadership, transformation

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