University of Calgary

Learning 2.0

Case-based course in mental health an interdisciplinary first

By Karen Cook

Instructors (front centre L-R) Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff, social work, Annette Lane,

Instructors (front centre L-R) Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff, social work, Annette Lane, nursing, and Nancy Marlett, community rehabilitation and disability studies, Faculty of Medicine, are joined by some of the students in the class. / Photo by Ken Bendiktsen

The Faculty of Nursing’s Annette Lane calls it “powerful learning.” To Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff from the Faculty of Social Work, it is “an exciting example of student engagement.” Nancy Marlett, from the Faculty of Medicine’s Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, says it’s the “best of inquiry-based learning.”

These three U of C professors team-teach what may the first venture of its kind in higher education in Canada and possibly the United States. The Mental Health and Addictions Interdisciplinary course was offered for the first time this semester as part of a new post-baccalaureate diploma program, funded by a joint initiative of the U of C and Calgary Health Region.

The course grew out of a task force that assembled faculty from across the health disciplines to access educational opportunities in mental health and addictions and propose creative innovations to teaching this curriculum to students in nursing, medicine, social work and psychology.

The course is case-based and students work as partners with mental-health consumers, family members and service providers from agencies such as the Schizophrenia Society, Potential Place, the Calgary Health Region and Northern Lights.

“The students actively work with these different perspectives and they integrate the content with lived experience,” says Waegemakers Schiff. “They then link that with theory.”
For many students, it’s their first exposure to interdisciplinary work.

Lana Rogozinsky, a graduate student who also works full-time in this area, says the course removes barriers for students with its dynamic approach.

“When you work in the health-care field or human services, you recognize that the most effective practice producing the greatest benefits for individuals is through interprofessional collaboration, a synergic team,” she says. “It sounds easy, but there can be many barriers to this type of practice.” 

The course is all the more impactful for the students because it is consumer-driven, says Lane. “Individuals come in not only to speak to the class, but to work with the students on their projects.”