The pandemic has affected the health sector the most, as health systems have been overwhelmed with the needs of patients requiring care, even though health workers themselves were also at risk of contracting the disease. Many of the first casualties of COVID-19 were those who cared for patients, particularly in the first six months of its onset, exacerbating the already problematic staffing of healthcare facilities around the world.
As the epidemic slowly turns into an endemic state, countries are now taking stock of their health human resources and the shortage is felt, especially the lack of nurses. Their response is to step up the process of recruiting other countries to fill their gaps. As the Philippines is one of the major sources of medical professionals in the world, this strains the local health institutions of their staff and faces great challenges in their functioning. More importantly, it will deprive Filipinos of the health services they need.
Although this problem can be partially solved by the adoption of telehealth, technology and other digital applications, they cannot go any further. Ultimately, there’s a reason the service is universally called healthcare – a recognition that ‘care’ is an integral part of healthcare, and it’s something that can never be replaced by technology. , no matter how sophisticated.
With all of this coming to a head with the ever-persistent COVID-19 and its variants, how health services are delivered and accessed, and how they will be deployed and managed will need to be reconfigured. They also signal the need to look at health systems from a new perspective and identify opportunities for innovation long needed to address persistent imbalances in access, equity and quality. While international standards and health protocols will always be an integral part of health processes, these need to be considered from a regional, national and local perspective on how these health services can be delivered, given our conditions. unique and using available resources.
The health education system will be called upon to play a central role in the implementation of these transformations and innovations necessary to remedy the shortages of human resources in health. Skills and skill sets will need to match, adapt and respond to these new needs and challenges. Failure to respond to this call at the time will compromise the stability of the health system, the cost of access to services and the quality of care.
There are long-standing health education challenges that the pandemic has magnified:
• the way learning is delivered, acquired and assessed has been changed by the acceleration of digital and other technologies;
• the continuous increase in the cost of education, which has become unaffordable for many students and their families; and
• how to re-tool and re-skill educators and institutions to adapt to the changing demands of learning and education.
Shaping the training of future health workers will require that institutions not only address these challenges, but also ensure that they become adept at using the technologies whose deployment has been accelerated by the pandemic. The learning environment will need to be restructured to merge the virtual and the physical, without sacrificing the hands-on training that is essential when the responsibility is to save lives. They will need to be nimble enough to transform the university into centers of learning where skills and competencies are honed, and use innovative applications and methodologies to achieve this. Needless to say, this needs to be done – and quickly – to stem the staffing shortage and get the healthcare system back on track.
The path to follow
It is a different world and the way forward will require deeper structural transformations. Therefore, addressing these disruptions requires collaboration and synergy between service providers (healthcare institutions) and learning providers (educational institutions).
1.Recalibrate the workout. The most pressing issue is upgrading students whose academic preparation may not be in line with the necessary clinical training and experiences that the two years of the pandemic have transformed. To prepare them for real work, institutional transitions are needed to complement and accelerate the largely theoretical learning provided by the virtual system.
2.Innovate learning methodologies. Health education must evolve by introducing innovations in both the clinical instruction and experiences provided to students and the pioneering spirit that can challenge the status quo and tradition.
3.Optimize the hybrid system. Educational institutions should also establish pathways that will institutionalize the hybrid system – physical and digital – and how best to optimize the two to achieve the quality of preparation required for patient care. This is especially critical in the healthcare environment where the mantra is always to get it right the first time, every time, because there is no redoing when it comes to patient lives.
4.Make education accessible. Diversity, equity and inclusion must be embedded in the academic DNA, and institutions must strive to make education more affordable and accessible, especially for students who have potential but who can struggle to afford the cost. Exploring links with other institutions, private, non-governmental organizations and the public sector inside and outside the country can be fertile ground for this. After all, education should have no borders.
5.Preparing the global health workforce. Philippines is a recognized brand in healthcare services. It has always been one of the most important, if not the most important source of nurses and doctors working in the health systems of various countries. Hospitals and educational institutions must come together to prepare the future global healthcare workforce, through strong academic preparation, systematic and hands-on training, and deployment that will provide experience in all facets of healthcare . Thus, the needs of our country will be prioritized and will benefit in priority from their know-how, their skills and their competent service. It will also make the local healthcare system less vulnerable to brain drain, rather ensuring that if and when they decide to explore the greater responsibility of caring for patients abroad, there are trained replacements readily available. who can take their place.
This transformed health education system will take on the great responsibility of training the future health professionals who will care for people here and around the world. The rate at which these systems are made operational will be critical because sick patients do not have time to wait. INQ
The author is Vice Chairman of the MAP Health Committee in 2022, Chairman of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, President and CEO of Health Solutions Corp. and former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism. Comments to [email protected] and
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