The concept of Community of Practice (CoP) has been around since the 1990s and was defined in 1998 by Etienne Wenger as “a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly“. It is through this process of sharing information and experiences within the CoP that members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. CoPs have the ability to influence theory and practice in many domains, have become the basis of knowledge and learning in many organisations and have been embraced in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park.
Bone Health CoP
Falls and falls related injuries are costing our health service and economy in excess of €500 million a year and are set to rise with our ageing population (HSE, DoH, 2008). Health and Social Care staff are becoming proactive in addressing this major problem but need a more collaborative approach. In 2011 and 2012 St Mary’s developed and implemented a suite of elearning tools on bone health, osteoporosis, falls prevention and falls management. Both feature under Bone Health in the Park and can be viewed at our website. Due to the response to both these programmes from a local and national perspective across the care continuum for older adults, we have recognised the need for a resource for health and social care staff on an ongoing basis, to network, offer support, guidance and continued education from experts in this area of practice. By developing a CoP online across the community, hospital, residential, palliative care and intellectual disability care settings this was achieved. There are currently 75 members of the CoP including nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers, pharmacists, dieticians and healthcare assistants all with a common interest in bone health and falls prevention in an ageing population.
CoP Objective & Aim
The objective of the CoP is to provide a collaborative network for health and social care staff working with older adults. The aim of this network is to provide informal and formal support, guidance and continued education on falls reduction, prevention and management. Through gathering information from the membership body and sharing what is working well, identifying areas for improvement and identifying areas for development around falls reduction, prevention and management in each of the identified areas of practice this can be realised. The CoP communicates online and has a face to face meeting annually while also hosting group meetings where work is under development.
Through the CoP an education resource was developed for people with intellectual disabilities, as none previously existed, using the expertise within the CoP membership. It was afforded its own website and is accessed regularly by people with an intellectual disability, their families and carers. Our websites have had over 36,000 visits since 2011.
CoP Hosts First Conference
In September 2015 the CoP hosted its first conference in Cappagh Hospital and had 135 delegates attend all with a specialist interest in the area. The ebonehealth education resource developed by Daragh Rodger and Anne Spencer was officially launched by Professor Moira O’ Brien and the conference also provided an opportunity to share information on what is happening nationally in relation to falls prevention and bone health. We had the honour of Professor Moira O'Brien presenting on the history of Osteoporosis care in Ireland which highlighted her tremendous dedication, expertise and enthusiasm in the field of osteoporosis diagnosis, treatment and management.
The long term objective is to provide a CoP that is accessible to all health and social care professionals, carers, families, service users and the public who require information on any aspect of bone health, falls reduction, management and prevention.