From 18–25 November 2011, Prague was the location of the fourth World Healthcare Students Symposium. David Preece reports
The World Healthcare Students Symposium, held every two years, has previously been held in Malta, Portugal and Egypt. This year it was held at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. The idea of over 300 students coming together who share an interest in healthcare was to begin the era of multidisciplinary co-operation as the participants were beginning their careers.
The underlying themes of the symposium was a commitment to patient safety and how each of the professions has its roles, responsibilities and interconnected working relationships with other healthcare professionals. Students from 45 countries came together representing pharmacy, medicine, nursing and dentistry.
A lecture on patient safety highlighted that this issue needs to be taught and, more importantly, maintained by all the professions. The level of patient safety worldwide is of deep concern. Various reports were highlighted that describe government strategies to improve patient safety, feeding into the development of the World Healthcare Organization multi-professional patient safety curriculum guide, launched in September 2011. The guide has already been implemented at Charles University.
In other lectures the problems of an over-reliance of technology and look-alike or sound-alike medicines were discussed with nursing students, confirming the problems that similar packages present to the administration of medicines. The pharmacy students agreed, but some medical colleagues were unaware of this issue.
Another lecture outlined the importance of pharmacovigilance and risk management, how they were started as a concept from the thalidomide disaster and how it is constantly changing in this modern environment of pharmaceutical innovation. From the patient’s perspective, the level of risk acceptable depends of the perceived level of benefit and, if there are no alternatives, or the consequences of not having the treatment are high, patients may accept higher risks.
The production of medicines is one of the most regulated industries in the world but their use for different conditions or for different patients is not as regulated. This may put the patient at risk. Communication between the professions and the patient will be fundamental to ensure successful treatment and decrease the risk of harm.
At the symposium there were also parallel sessions. I had the opportunity to present at the “medication safety around the world” workshop, giving the view from the UK about how we monitor and improve patient safety. In total, 18 different speakers gave the view of their country, including recent legislative changes, examples of good practice and areas for improvement. Attendees did not only learn about different healthcare systems but also about different cultures and patient expectations, for example, Australia, India and Puerto Rico.
A representative from the British Medical Association discussed different parts of society that contribute to ethical positions within healthcare and how professionals, regardless of their profession, may come to different conclusions. Understanding how ethical decisions are made can contribute to improvement of the patient’s journey through the healthcare system and improve our decision-making process as professionals.
Equally as important, delegates were treated to a social programme that showed Prague to be a famous delight. Participants became friends competing in the treasure hunt and exploring the city, including the Charles’ Bridge, and finishing at Prague Castle. The reception committee looked after the delegates with a series of activities at the Czech Night (music, learning Czech and indulging in the cuisine) and all delegates represented their countries on the international night.
Conferences like this are an opportunity to meet future colleagues, learn together and have great fun.
David Preece is a pharmacist at United Lincolnshire NHS Trust. He has previously been on the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association executive