Adapting to skill shortages within a particular profession

Health Communication represents a short-term postgraduate program developed by the College of Communication and Public Relations (SNSPA) and addressed to people with various specializations in the health sector (such as managers, spokespersons, doctors and other medical personnel, etc.), in order to develop and refine their communication skills that are so necessary for them to successfully accomplish their social role. It is the first program of its kind offered in a university setting in Romania, and aiming at increasing the awareness of the role of institutional and interpersonal communication in the healthcare system.

The program is implemented by a group of professors at the College of Communication and Public Relations with degrees and a highly relevant field experience in communication, training, public relations, leadership, coaching, human resources and psychology. Additionally, professionals and specialists from the medical system are invited regularly as guest lectures, considering that only consultations with experts from various fields will lead to a successful medical act.

Why is this case study an example of good practice?

it was designed to fill a gap on the medical training market, by approaching the needs of the people whose jobs require high levels of interaction with patients, colleagues, subordinates, relevant public institutions, providers of medical equipment and supplies, media institutions and others alike.

– being offered in a university setting, it combines a rigorous approach anchored in communication sciences with intensive practice-related activities oriented towards the particular needs of the student.


More Information

Impact

What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

- Challenge: This program addresses a priority at the regional and international level, i.e. the necessity of increasing the awareness of the role of institutional and interpersonal communication in the healthcare system. Aiming at responding to skills shortages in this particular field (i.e., health sector), the program addresses the lack of necessary skills and competences in a complementary area (i.e., communication) to the basic specialization (i.e., medical studies, etc.).
- Why: Programmatic documents of the European Commission and the activities of some international bodies involved in health management underline that health sector specialists must be able to communicate accurate information about health that is both scientifically-based and accessible to different audiences. Since communication is viewed as a crucial element in the success of crisis management in the health sector, this program was designed to meet important needs on the labour market, i.e. the needs of healthcare professionals, health and prevention education institutions, associations and organizations, public health and pharmaceutical industry experts, governmental and local decision-makers, members of trade unions, and all those who wish to train their communication skills about health, prevention, education, regulation, care and promotion of products or medical services.
- What did not work well? The current legislation, specifically the normative acts elaborated by the Romanian College of Physicians regarding the accreditation of medical programs does not support the interdisciplinary collaboration. At present, the legislation provides that only the institutions that are defined by law as providers of medical education can provide medical credits (called EMC). Hence, the graduates of the aforementioned program do not receive credits and scores at the annual professional evaluation.
- Main achievements:
- a certain opening up of the university and particularly of the faculty providing this program to meet the needs on the labour market, completing the range of competences that are highly needed in order for the people to successfully exercise professions in the health care sector;
- concluding a collaboration protocol between FCRP (Faculty of Communication and Public Relations) and the Romanian Association for Paediatric Education in Family Medicine (ARPMF), signed in July 2017. The protocol aims at developing the teaching and research activities of the postgraduate program by both organizations involved, in accordance with the curriculum developed by the program provider (Faculty of Communication and Public Relations, SNSPA), in order to facilitate the necessary medical education and skills as provided by the Romanian College of Physicians;
- starting with June 2018, The College of Communication and Public Relations will become a member of the ECREA Health Communication Division, a European networking which will set up research directions in the field of medical communication. In November 2018, a team of researchers and professors from FCRP will participate in the first meeting of this group (in Lugano, Switzerland) in order to present the stage of medical communication in Romania.

Constraints

What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

The limiting factors are related to the current legislation that does not support the interdisciplinary collaboration between medical education institutions and other providers of competences with significant relevance and applicability in the healthcare sector (such as universities/ faculties providing competences in communication, journalism, IT, etc.).
The team implementing this program has tried to address these shortcomings by sending an informative letter to officials from the Government where the tremendous role of relevant, clear and well-targeted communication in the health sector was documented.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

- Official documents/ public campaigns rising the awareness of the authorities regulating medical profession standards of the prominent role played by interdisciplinary collaboration between institutions providing medical knowledge and specializations and institutions providing communication skills and competences;
- This highly needed collaboration will positively impact upon people with various specializations in the health sector by helping them accomplish more successfully their professional role. At the same time, it will positively influence the receivers of medical services who will benefit from relevant and accurate information about health in general and about their specific health problems in particular.
- Besides a deep and extended knowledge in medical sciences, the medical personnel should grow aware of the importance of communication skills in successfully addressing their daily activities.
- Also, FCRP (Faculty of Communication and Public Relations), the program provider, supports its sustainability by providing the rooms for all the courses and activities with the necessary equipment and infrastructure (such as PCs and servers, printers, scanners, voice and video recording devices, smartboard and video conference system, flipcharts, etc.).

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

Key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again
- establishing a teaching team from both FCRP and a medical education provider because, considering the dynamics of the changes in the healthcare sector, only consultations with experts from different fields will lead to the success of the medical act, of prevention and medical education.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

An earlier or bigger impact of this program would have been possible if the medical education institutions and authorities regulating medical profession standards had shown a greater openness towards other providers of education from complementary areas (such as universities/ faculties with majors in communication, IT, journalism studies, etc.) in order to complement medical skills and competences.
Also, in order for the impact of such academic programs to be higher, the graduates should be more heterogeneous. So far, the great majority of those attending this program’s courses are family physicians and paediatricians, and less from other specializations such as surgery, emergency units, pharmacists, civil servants, etc.

Context

Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

The major crises that have occurred in the Romanian health sector in the last two years (e.g. the fire in Colectiv, the Hexi Pharma scandal, the children diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome in Arges county or the most recent measles outbreak) have shown that communication plays a vital role. Developing communication skills for professionals and managers in this area can contribute significantly to a better management of risk and crisis situations, and to a clearer and more efficient communication with mass media, based on ethical and strategic principles. Hence, the program is designed to fill a gap on the medical field training market, by meeting the (learning) needs of those whose job requires a high level of interaction with media, patients, colleagues and subordinates, relevant public institutions, providers of medical equipment and supplies, and others alike. Equally, this program addresses a priority at the regional and international level. European Commission’s cartographic documents (European Health White book - Together for Health: A strategic approach for the EU 2008-2013) and the activities of some international bodies involved in health management (The European Center for Disease and Prevention Control – ECDC; The European Medicines Agency – EMA; The World Health Organization – WHO) underline that it is of massive importance that health sector specialists are able of communicating precise and correct information about health that is both scientifically-based and accessible to different audiences. At the same time, as different highly notorious institutions in the health sector stipulate (ECDC, WHO, EMA) communication about health is seen worldwide as part of drug treatment, numerous scientific research showing that good, effective communication is a key-factor in reducing the risk of illness, in adopting healthy behaviours or in improving the general health of the population.