"Our actions must have meaning for society. That's what I find beautiful about Medical Delta."

Heart with a heartbeat

How do you ensure that people with chronic conditions continue to participate in society? What can be done to keep healthcare professionals vital? These are the issues that Dr. AnneLoes van Staa is addressing within Medical Delta. "From day one, you have to collaborate with those - nurses, doctors, and patients - who will deal with it in practice and start with their questions and needs."

AnneLoes van Staa is a nurse, holds degrees in Medicine and Cultural Anthropology, and has been a lecturer in Care Transitions at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences for twenty years. Additionally, she holds a position at Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM). Recently, she has also become a Medical Delta lecturer.

You have been appointed as a Medical Delta professor. What does that mean for you?

"It means new opportunities to establish collaborations within Medical Delta between academic universities and universities of applied sciences. In this area, there is still much to gain. Personally, it is recognition that the universities of applied sciences have a rightful place within the ecosystem of knowledge partners. I've advocated for this, and it's now being acknowledged."

Can you briefly describe your expertise?

"I work on three research lines. The first focuses on young people with chronic conditions transitioning to adulthood and, consequently, to adult healthcare. I am already collaborating on this within the Medical Delta program Healthy Society, which focuses on lifespan care. The second research line is about person-centered care, supporting self-management and autonomy. What support can healthcare professionals provide? I am working on this within the Medical Delta program Vital Delta.

The third line is crucial for this lectureship: the vitality of healthcare professionals themselves. How can we keep them engaged and vital, ensuring they do not leave the profession? The intention to leave the profession is significant, especially in nursing. It is a shame to lose people due to working conditions or workload. In this regard, I will collaborate with ESHPM, where I have my second position."

Introduction Medical Delta Professor AnneLoes van Staa

Within Medical Delta, universities and colleges collaborate across different disciplines. Why is this important?

"Minister Dijkgraaf recently stated it beautifully: there should not be a ladder in education, but a fan. I see the research field as a continuum, with fundamental scientific research on one side and practical research on the other. We meet in the middle. You need both. The beauty of vocational education is that we are very close to professional practice, bridging the gap between theory and practice. However, I think we still meet and collaborate too little.

Medical Delta can help with that. There is still a lot of unfamiliarity about what we can do together. Medical Delta can further organize and encourage those encounters. For example, by always asking for collaboration between universities and colleges when applying for new programs. It might seem like a somewhat rigid measure, but it often helps."

Do you see a role for vocational education (MBO) within Medical Delta?

"I certainly see a role for vocational education. We are already collaborating with practical training centers, but it is not easy. There is a difference between MBO 1 and 2 on one hand and MBO 3 and 4 on the other. There is also no tradition of innovation and research. This is different from universities and colleges. However, MBO students are doers and play a crucial role in everyday life. They are also motivated to work and participate. We are now slowly setting up basic research practices, but it requires a lot of attention."

What does collaboration within Medical Delta bring to your work?

"Medical Delta can be a significant catalyst to engage partners and collaborate. Nowadays, you often have to work in consortia, and Medical Delta makes that easier. Especially now that the focus is broader than technology. In the past, the emphasis was mainly on high tech, while our projects are more about low tech and healthcare itself. This shift in focus is interesting for us and is also a logical development.

It's becoming increasingly clear that high-tech solutions alone are not enough. In long-term care for chronic patients, curing is not an option. You have to look for handy tools to relieve care and promote self-management. High tech is often very costly and usable for a small group. A convenient way to receive care at home has a much more extensive impact.

What I find beautiful about Medical Delta is the principle that what we do must make sense for society. We are not an academic clique but truly focused on bringing about change.

You are going to work closely with ESHPM in this new professorship. What does that look like?

"What drives both of us is the interest in how we can retain professionals for healthcare. Within that theme, we have a different focus. My interest lies in the primary process of patient and healthcare provider. ESHPM colleagues (of the Health Care Governance research group) look more at the organization. There is overlap: the healthcare professional is not only dealing with the patient or in the consultation room but also with their team and the organization.

Healthcare professionals want to provide good care and get frustrated when they can't. There is a lot of complaint about the administrative burden or staff shortages, resulting in too little time for a proper conversation with the patient. This affects job satisfaction and is detrimental to the patient. Lack of flexibility and little room for initiative also lead to complaints. Together with ESHPM, I will shape the theme of the vitality of healthcare professionals and how organizations can facilitate that."

As a professor and researcher at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, you are at the forefront of interdisciplinary work. What are the success factors for making it successful?

"From day one, you have to collaborate with those - nurses, doctors, and patients - who will deal with it in practice and start with their questions and needs. Not a research and development approach where you design something in the lab and then throw it into the market, but true co-creation. It gives you a lot, even before you start working.

For example, we developed a tool that supports patients' self-management. It came with training, including a step-by-step guide on how nurses should use the tool. What happened in practice? Nurses who had taken the training did not use the tool, and those who had encountered the tool without training did. The training gave nurses the impression that it was a complicated tool. Whereas when someone tried it themselves, they figured it out. The lesson was: to keep it simple and attractive and ensure someone starts using it right away. Think about how you use your new phone without reading the manual first. It sounds logical but is still a pitfall for us as researchers."

What is still missing in your collaboration to achieve your goals? What call do you want to make?

"For many organizations, their interests often take precedence. It is us first and then comes collaboration. I find that a hindrance. If you truly want to collaborate, you must first choose the collective. The problem is that organizations want to be in the spotlight themselves. There is a fear that collaboration harms their interests, whereas I think it takes us further. I notice at the grassroots level that people driven by content already collaborate well, but that mindset still needs to change in the heads of the executives."

You will likely meet more scientists from other disciplines and institutions now. Whose work has truly surprised you, and why?

"Pauline Meurs is originally an organizational sociologist and was connected to ESHPM until her retirement last year. She is exceptionally driven and has a very sharp vision of the role of professionals in society and healthcare as such. She has led me to think critically about the meaning of the caregiver in that complex organization. I'm often surprised by her insights and admire what she has meant in healthcare."

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Het health & technology ecosysteem van het deltagebied en daarbuiten komt op dinsdag 14 november samen op de Medical Delta Conference.
Operatiekamer met specialisten
The appointments underscores the collaboration of the affiliated universities and colleges within Medical Delta in the fields of innovation and health.
The goal of the joint research is to develop scientifically substantiated methods to improve the health of all Dutch people.

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