Starting in the fall of 2012, a Community Service Learning experience became mandatory for all first-year students. Each student completes at least 30 hours of in-service experience in an approved placement with a community health agency.
We know that all incoming medical students have already accumulated numerous hours volunteering in the community.CSL is intended to take this to a higher level in four main ways:
It provides exposure to the health issues of marginalized populations: people whose medical problems are complicated by poverty and other psycho-social challenges;
It focuses on the role of community agencies in managing these health issues – agencies of the type that you will collaborate with in patient care when you become a physician;
It provides a setting in which you can practice skills in 'the art of medicine': communication, cultural sensitivity, a community perspective and advocacy for health. In this, CSL connects to our curriculum themes in the Humanities, Interprofessionalism and Mindfulness;
It provides settings in which you can develop graded skills in working independently and in ways to improve the care we deliver to disadvantaged populations.
What are the objectives?
The formal learning objectives state that by the end of their placement students will be able to:
Describe the social determinants of health they encountered in their placement and develop a critical analysis of how these determinants affected the health of the clients they saw;
Describe the impact of community-level interventions to promote health and prevent disease;
Describe the roles of, and work collaboratively with, community and social service agencies in caring for patients with chronic health conditions.
Why do I have to do CSL?
Many of your patients will present with psycho-social issues. Often these patients are marginalized and vulnerable; it will take time and expertise to deal with their issues. You will often refer them to a community agency while remaining in overall charge of the patient's management. The CSL program introduces you to the types of community care services with which you will collaborate in future; it complements your placement with a family physician preceptor through the Physician Skills Development (PSD) curriculum. CSL offers practical experience of several themes introduced in the SIM classroom sessions: social determinants of health; public health and community services; interprofessional collaboration and the roles of the physician, and research methods (relevant to CSL placements that involve evaluating services).
Second, many marginalized groups (street people, refugees, others with severe addictions) have severe medical problems but lack a family doctor, so you may not encounter them in those settings. The CSL partially fills this gap in your training; you are encouraged to ponder how we should care for under-serviced populations.
Third, recent years have seen much attention to the social accountability of medical schools – a movement that was developed with significant input from medical students at UOttawa.The Faculty is keen to see our students continue to take a lead in proposing solutions to pressing health needs among our most vulnerable populations.
Finally, community learning is mandated by the overall accreditationbody for medical schools. Of the many accreditation standards, one requires that "All medical schools should make available sufficient opportunities for medical students to participate in service-learning activities, and should encourage support and student participation.”They define service learning as “a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Students engaged in service learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which the service is provided, the connection between the service and their academic coursework, and their role as citizens and professionals.”
What will I do in CSL?
Your CSL placement occurs during first year. The goal is for you to remain with one placement for the full 30 hours; most placements involve a range of activities. Placements cover a range of health issues and population groups; you can choose the theme that most interests you.
We distinguish two main categories of activity. Some students will work with a single agency in a pre-designed activity. Other students propose a placement with a new program. If this placement fills the objectives of CSL and is approved by the CSL director, students may complete their 30 hours.
The broad topics included within CSL relate to:
Young mothers and children
Health maintenance for elderly people
Immigrant and refugee health
Health of homeless people
Your activities may include:
Patient support and assistance (accompanying them to doctor's appointments, interpreting instructions, medications, etc)
Delivering interventions or care
Collaborating with and assisting staff
Undertaking a research project, such as evaluating an intervention program.
What do I do if I know of another CSL placement opportunity?
We have taken considerable care in choosing placements, but it is possible that you will identify other suitable placements. If so, you can fill in this form. We will review the suggestion to see whether it matches our criteria, as explained on the form.
You will attend CSL placements in the afternoons, evenings or on week-ends. The placements run from January to May
The program is administered through the University’s Centre for Global and Community Engagement (www.servingothers.uottawa.ca). This Centre handles community placements for several faculties. It has a web site that handles your registration for a placement; the site also logs your completed hours. For any questions concerning how to use the web site, selecting a placement, or on getting your hours credited, please contact Sharmaine Nelles: snelles@uOttawa.ca
Within the Faculty, the Director of the CSL program is Dr. Lina Shoppoff who can handle questions concerning the design of the program, suggestions for improvement, etc. E-mail: Lina.Shoppoff@uOttawa.ca
How do I sign up?
Once logged into uoZone, click on the Applications section. Under this section, select Community Engagement Navigator. It is recommended that you look at potential CSL placements before they are activated. To do so, you will log into your Community Navigator Account and go to Placements, then select CSL (specific course). Select your course code and correct semester and click Sea
You are responsible for attending on time and for warning your placement supervisor of any absences. Training or an orientation session may be required for your placement, so shortly before you expect to begin, get in touch with the placement supervisor and discuss the best time to meet them. They will keep a record of your attendance; as with all other mandatory curriculum components, you cannot graduate from first year until you have completed the CSL component.
Orientation to CSL
Several classroom sessions in the Introduction and Foundations Units provide orientation to the CSL program: roles of the physician, social determinants of health, social accountability, communication skills, community care, research methods.
How does CSL relate to other volunteer activities?
Our students have always volunteered in the community, and also overseas. In addition to the mandatory CSL, there are three main avenues for this: via student interest groups and advocacy groups organized through the Aesculapian Society, via formal electives organized by the faculty, and students can undertake volunteer activities on their own initiative. Placed in the first year, CSL introduces students to services in the Ottawa area and provides an orientation towards such activities, but it focuses on a small number of placements, leaving students free to work in other settings as they wish. Some students continue voluntarily with the same agency they chose for CSL; if space permits this is acceptable, but CSL placements take priority. To enable other CSL students to gain that experience we would prefer post-CSL students to seek out an equivalent experience in a different setting.
Links between Community Service Learning (CSL) and Student Interest Groups:
CSL (30 hour mandatory placement for all firs-year students). After the 30 hours, the CSL students will normally hand over to a new CSL student.
Options for post-CSLvolunteer activity (including second year)
Interestedstudents can volunteer with student-led interest or advocacy groups and get credits; or
Students can arrange their own volunteer placements, either with the CSL organization if it has enough capacity, or elsewhere. If you remain with the CSL placement, priority for access goes to incoming CSL students.