20 May 2011

Teamwork activities by 1800 University of Queensland health students are providing a boost to charities here and overseas.

About 60 charities have received support from more than 160 teams of first-year students as part of a unique way to introduce the concept of teamwork between the health professions.

As part of the Teamwork In Action (TIA) program, more than 500 students are highlighting the work of their charities at a Health Fair at UQ’s St Lucia campus today.

Activities include tackling the Fred Hollows Foundation obstacle course wearing glasses that simulate a visual impairment, beach volley ball and surf safety with Surf Life Saving Queensland and an attempt to cram as many people as possible into a Kim Walters Choices Program bright pink Hyundai sedan.

TIA co-ordinator Neville Smith said the program, now in its second year, was the only activity of its type being run at an Australian university.

Over the past three months, students have supported a variety of charities, with activities including:

• doing yoga with nursing home residents
• recruiting hundreds of new blood donors
• volunteering at soup kitchens
• working with young migrants
• helping in the Grantham community and
• raising awareness of a wide range health issues, including cancer, mental health, men’s and women’s health, autism, brain injury, nutrition and sexually transmitted diseases.

Activities have also touched international charities. One team is providing research support to a group of fellow health students in Christchurch, who have no access to study resources following the devastating earthquake.

Two teams of students have launched a project to raise funds to support a medical clinic (Manali Medical Aid Project) caring for one of the poorest communities in the Himalayan mountains.

“The main aim of TIA is to introduce students to teamwork and in particular, working with other health disciplines,” Mr Smith said.

“Interprofessional education will continue during their studies so that UQ health graduates are well equipped to become effective members of a healthcare team.”

Working with charities had offered other significant benefits for students.

“It’s been amazing to see just how far reaching the benefits have been," he said. "Students have gained leadership and membership skills, interpersonal skills and experienced interacting with charity clients and their families.

“While technical skills and knowledge will be key for these future health professionals, learning about emotions, learning to listen and to interact well at a personal level will enable them to be more effective health care providers.

“The feedback from charities is that they were delighted with our students’ contributions and are keen to continue to be involved in the project next year.”

Media inquiries: Marlene McKendry 0401 996847