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Towards empathic health care

Towards empathic health care

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

Student Award goes to Mens Achter de Patiënt

MAASTRICHT. More empathy in health care. That is the ultimate aim of medical student Matthijs Bosveld and health sciences student Sjim Romme, who received the Student Award 2016 last Monday. Their project ‘Mens Achter de Patiënt’ (MAP, the Person Behind the Patient) connects fellow-students to patients, who are given the opportunity to tell their story at their own pace during the course of three sessions (both joint and individual ones) – something they often have no opportunity to do during their treatment.

Friends and roommates Bosveld and Romme realised about eighteen months ago that they were both irritated by the same problem: workers in health care – whether they are doctors, psychologists, nurses or policy makers – are not showing great interest in the person behind the patient. By enabling future doctors and health scientists to experience the impact of a disease on a person’s life, they hope to bring about change.

In January of this year, MAP had completed the first pilot phase. Romme and Bosveld linked eight student friends to an equal number of patients. The reactions were enthusiastic. The students subsequently approached the bachelor programme co-ordinators and told them about their findings. “The co-ordinators thought it was a good project, but their were some issues to be solved. What would be the effect of upscaling the project? And including students who were not our friends? So we carried out a second pilot project,” says Bosveld, who accepted the award by himself on Monday. Romme – who studies not only Management, Policy and Evaluation of Health Care but also Economics – is in Australia for a minor. “But he was there via FaceTime. His parents and girlfriend were in the audience and held up a phone the whole time.”

During the second pilot project, twenty students were linked to fifteen patients. With one small adjustment: this time two students – one from Medicine and from Health Sciences – were assigned to every patient. “This had more didactic value, because you look at things from two perspectives.” This was something the guys found out by accident, when Romme went along with a medical student during the first pilot project when his own patient was too sick. “The experiences from both pilot projects were practically identical. Everyone thought it was extremely valuable,” says Bosveld.

A handbook was written and a presentation was prepared, which will be handed out during the congress of the Dutch Association of Medical Education in November. “We want to fine-tune our product this academic year, so that people can put it into practice straight away.” So without help from Romme and Bosveld. “We would like to be involved, but education requires continuity and we are students, so we will leave at some stage.”

Their primary aim is to have MAP incorporated into the UM’s curriculum. “If you make it an optional activity, you might miss the people who need it most.” After that, they want to spread their idea, visiting other universities. “We are both in our last year of our bachelor’s. If all goes well, we will take a year off next year to focus on this.” Not, by the way, to earn money with it. “I may call it a product, but we want MAP to be a non-profit foundation and only ask universities for compensation for expenses. Otherwise we would be overshooting our objective – providing the most empathic health care.”

Bosveld feels that the Student Award is a great support. “It opens doors: I was given lots of cards yesterday by people saying ‘contact us’. It is also recognition. When we go to other universities, this shows that we know what we are doing.”

Cleo Freriks

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