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Students collaborate to catch senior citizens before they fall

UCPH Students analysed a difficult problem in Copenhagen welfare. Their analysis was relayed to students at University College Copenhagen, who used their skills to come up with a solution based on the analysis.

When older people fall, they hurt, not just themselves, but also the economy of society. That is why preventing falls is one of 15 major challenges set by the social services of Copenhagen to students of health and care. In Copenhagen Science City, students from two local institutions took up the challenge. Mixing approaches and methodology from academia, practice and entrepreneurship led to interesting results. By Jes Andersen.

Intern in a problem, not a company

University of Copenhagen offers a programme in Health Informatics, which trains candidates to lead development initiatives in the health and welfare sector. One section of their programme is an internship. This year students got the opportunity to become interns in a problem, rather than a company.

15 new challenges

The novel type of internship is the brainchild of Martin B. Justesen. He is the leader of SUND Hub, a start-up community for health and care-students run by the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. He was asked to facilitate internships with start-ups for one of their team. The request came in just after the social services of the Municipality of Copenhagen had articulated their “15 major challenges to students of health and care”. This gave Justesen an idea.

“I renamed the challenges as “Problems” and came up with an idea I call “the problem-based internship”. I felt that these students could learn just as much through using methods from entrepreneurship, as they would from an actual internship in a start-up”, says Martin B. Justesen with a smile.

Setting the scene for fellow students

Two fundamental methods in entrepreneurship is to identify which problem you are trying to solve, and whether there will be users and customers for your solution. Adopting this approach meant, that the Health Informatics students spent 90 percent of their time analysing problem and users and just 10 percent trying to come up with a solution. This set the scene nicely for a group of students at a completely different institution.

Practicing interprofessional collaboration

University College Copenhagen provides bachelor degree programmes in fields such as nursing, health- and nutrition, emergency and risk-management and social work. Here, the seven-week programme “Co-creation of welfare with local participants” obliges students to practice interprofessional collaboration. Senior lecturer Mulle Signe Nielsen teaches the programme. She was delighted to learn of the report from the University of Copenhagen- students.

We set great store in teaching our students to work across traditional professional barriers. I believe that the entire welfare sector would benefit, if we all trained our students in interprofessional collaboration”: Mulle Signe Nielsen, Senior Lecturer, University College Copenhagen

Discovering a tough challenge

Thanks to the methods learned in the SUND Hub problem solver programme, the University of Copenhagen student team discovered a tough challenge. In Copenhagen, fully half of the citizens over 65 take care of themselves. When municipal services only meet senior citizens after they fall, it is very difficult for them to introduce preventive measures. Hubfather Martin Justesen carried this analysis to the students at University College, who picked it up and put their thinking caps on.

Their solution was great. Instead of focusing on the problem; the falling, the University College Copenhagen-students came up with an idea where the focus is positive. They came up with “Gymnastics with Grandchildren” where exercises are aimed at training better balance”: Martin B. Justesen, Hubmanager, SUND Hub, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Hand-over at the right moment

Justesen feels that the University of Copenhagen students, with their academic grounding, have the best possible background to carry out the analysis. He is also confident, that the hand-over came at the right moment to generate “Gymnastics with Grandchildren”.

“The students at University College Copenhagen have a deep insight in daily practice in the health and care sector. Including in questions of the legislative framework. It was quite clear, that they could lift the analysis to another level when the time came to start generating ideas for solutions”, says Justesen.

A thirst for more

For University of Copenhagen as well as University College Copenhagen, the experience has strengthened the tutors’ thirst for more opportunities for collaboration between their students.

“Students tend to feel that their education programme has given them a broad outlook. When they discover, that other professions have a different outlook, due to a difference in perspective, they experience an added respect for other occupations while reinforcing their pride in their own”: Mulle Signe Nielsen, Senior Lecturer, University College Copenhagen.

Just one request

The final analysis seems clear. Being able to build on results from another study programme was a boon for UCC students. Seeing their analysis lead to usable ideas was hugely motivational for the UCPH students. Now, the two tutors have just one request to the City of Copenhagen and other health related organisations

Please: Send more problems”: Martin B. Justesen and Mulle Signe Nielsen.

Looking for a start-up job?

Students looking for a start-up to join could start their search at the homepages of Copenhagen Science City’s seven innovation hubs

Start-ups looking for students to recruit could start their search on Copenhagen Science City’s listing of matchmaking and internship-programmes