George Brown College: Creating Collaboration for Health Care

Have you ever gone to your primary doctor, only to be referred to a specialist, and the specialist was clueless as to why you went to see him/her?  Or maybe received a health assessment based just one point of view rather than the whole picture?  There are walls built up between disciplines and occupations in the healthcare field.  With the construction of their new Waterfront  campus, George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, is seeking change that, creates not only a collaborative learning environment, but collaboration for the health profession.

A space built for collaboration
I got a sneak peak at the building under construction.  The first thing you notice when you enter are the massive windows that allow natural daylight to enter the building. Perhaps that is symbolic of what George Brown College is trying to do in the Health Sciences – break down walls.

A “lecture” hall under construction, built for in class collaboration.

“We are looking at educating students differently, less siloed, looking at our spaces differently to support that information sharing,” says Lorie Shekter-Wolfson, Assistant Vice-President, Waterfront Development  and Dean, Community Services and Health Sciences.

For a moment, imagine you are back in college. What is the one centerpiece of learning that we all rush to get to, but then are in a hurry to leave?  Lecture.  But Shekter-Wolfson has a different take on that word, “There is no lecture here.  I hate that word.  With collaborative learning, you can taste, feel, and smell what we mean by integration.”

For example, the “lecture” halls are built to facilitate in class interaction.  Gone is that row by row escalation of lecture hall seats.  Each step of escalation has two rows.  The front row can turn to the back to easily discuss learning topics.  But the space is also crafted to take learning beyond the classroom, creating collaborative ad hoc spaces that seem to take up just as much room as the traditional classroom space.

The green roof top at George Brown College Waterfront Campus.

Not only is the space built for students, but parts of it will be open to the public.  The green rooftop overlooking the waterfront is accessible to the community at large.  The new campus is also seeking to become LEED Gold certified.  How is that for collaborating with the environment?

A collaborative curriculum
“No one knows what the other is doing.  If we are going to change this thinking, we are going to need to change the educational system,” says Shekter-Wolfson.  Just as important as having a collaborative space, is having a collaborative curriculum, or as GBC refers to it, interprofessional education framework.

This framework focuses on patient-centered team-based care, as opposed to discipline-centered, isolated treatment. “Faculty had to learn to work together. They all taught about health assessment, but talked as if they were the only game in town,”  says Shekter-Wolfson. The goal is to have a more systemic approach to patient treatment.

Health theory can go into health practice all under one roof.  The GBC Waterfront campus will also house living labs, such as the Simulated Practice Centre and the Interprofessional Learning Clinic.  Just as parts of the building are open to the public, health services are open to the public, as well, along with the learning clinic.  How is that for collaborating with the community?

The future is collaboration
It seems that open and cross-discipline collaboration is becoming more and more prevalent.  What building designs have you seen that facilitated collaboration?  What other areas do you see walls being torn down, and collaborative relationships built?  What disciplines or areas do you think need more cross-discipline collaboration such as this?

Full Disclosure: Cisco covered travel costs for me to Toronto, so I could to not only learn about their Smart+Connected concept and technologies, but see it firsthand.  George Brown College Waterfront Campus is one of Cisco Canada’s technology partners.

Image Credit: Top – George Brown College; Bottom Insert – Jonathan Mariano.

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.