Student Spotlight: Celisse Bibr (Laurentian University)

Celisse Bibr is a recent Master’s graduate from Laurentian University’s Interdisciplinary Health program, and a current doctoral student in the Rural and Northern Health program. She studied, and is currently studying, under the supervision of Dr. Shelley Watson, to build on Northern Ontarian literature surrounding FASD.

Celisse Photo

Knowledge of Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) Students on the Subject of FASD

The purpose of medical education is to support future healthcare professionals in reaching their full potential, in order for patients to receive the care that they need. However, Canadian healthcare professionals report that their training in FASD is insufficient. As a result, it is no surprise that individuals with FASD and their caregivers report feeling under-supported by their healthcare providers.

The aim of this research project was to explore the perspectives of healthcare professionals before they begin to practice. As such, a two-phased mixed methods study was completed with students attending NOSM for their undergraduate medical education. The first phase included two surveys, and the second phase involved an individual, semi-structured interview.

Students had a general knowledge of FASD, but they were not consistently aware of the specifics of the disorder. As a result, students struggled to advise their patients; in particular, students felt frustrated, stuck, and/or lost when advising a patient who had drank alcohol before they had known of their pregnancy. As one student put it, “I don’t know if it really would’ve been appropriate to talk about FASD at that point […] I don’t know what I would say [or] what the right thing would be to say.”

There were two main barriers to learning about FASD that students cited:

(1) students are placed in different clinical settings and therefore learn different things; and
(2) both students and the curriculum are full of information, with little room to add more

These barriers aren’t limited to NOSM; learning through practical experience is a significant portion of medical education, through clerkship and residency. Keeping an updated curriculum without causing students to burnout is a challenge that all of healthcare education faces.

Students proposed three recommendations for Canadian medical schools in order to account for these barriers:

(1) provide more opportunities to work with individuals who have FASD or providers who work with individuals with FASD to ensure all students have equal access to these opportunities;
(2) supplementing and supporting experiential learning;
(3) using various sources to deliver knowledge, such as community members or standardized patients, as a compromise between making sure all topics get covered through structured learning and allowing students to gain knowledge through experiential learning

Summary of Implications:

Medical students do not feel confident in their knowledge or their advice surrounding FASD

  • Students acknowledge the gaps in their knowledge, feel a desire to learn, but struggle to balance FASD with other topics
  • Students want to help their patients, and feel frustrated when they are unable to advise around topics such as FASD

This lack of confidence and knowledge will be brought with them to their future practices, which will directly impact the type of care that individuals with FASD will receive

It is vital to account for the student-identified barriers to learning, as these are relevant to all Canadian healthcare curricula

  • Steps need to be taken to minimize these barriers, in order for patients to receive the care and support they need

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