#ThisIsTRSM: Critical Thinking for Health Professionals

James Pringle

With a clinical background in chiropractic and experience working in strategic policy for the Ministry of Health, Dr. James Pringle definitely brings real-world experience into the classroom. But the professor of Health Services Management says it’s not just his own professional knowledge that makes for engaging classes. “Health Services Management is a degree-completion program, so our students come with a depth of knowledge that makes for incredibly interesting and fulsome discussions on the health sector and management practices. I’ve been working for over 20 years in clinical practice, but my students have practical experience too. That creates a unique opportunity for the students to share and grow from our collective practical experience and knowledge.”

Dr. Pringle says the diversity of professional experience – HSM students may be clinically trained diploma students from information management, practical nurses, dental hygienists etc. – makes for great conversation about some of the most relevant and controversial issues in healthcare today. “I will often begin a class by asking students in my introductory healthcare course, ‘What are the current healthcare issues from the news?’ To facilitate that discussion, St. Michael’s Hospital has something called Healthy Debate, which is an online discussion forum where they bring up some of these contextual issues. I say, ‘Here’s the crux of the issue. Let’s read this, get into groups, and have a discussion about it.’ It brings issues into focus because they’re current both within the news media and discussed within healthcare circles.”

Students in Dr. Pringle’s classes have also had the chance to engage with leaders and fellow members of the professional healthcare community through Twitter chats, and he has used online simulations to teach important healthcare concepts like change management. “Simulations allow students to make mistakes within a safe environment. They get feedback on how they’re doing and immediately get to try again. It’s a very valuable learning experience. In the simulation case, students deal with the merger of two emergency rooms into one, which is a real-world scenario that has happened with hospital mergers in Ontario. Students may read the theory, but until you actually go through it, it can be hard to fully understand. The simulation allows students to try different things based on the theory and see how it turns out. Right or wrong, your approach will give you a better idea of the complexities of change management.”

Dr. Pringle likes to complement academic theory with a healthy dose of critical thinking. Besides supporting opinion with peer-reviewed research, “One of the things I like to teach students is, it’s fine to have an opinion, but you have to understand it’s coming from your own frame of reference. So in order to strengthen your opinions, you also have to demonstrate you understand other frames of reference. I get them to take the Implicit Association Test through Harvard University to get a better appreciation for that. I like discussions where there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, but it depends on how well you understand the issue from different perspectives. If you can show me you fully understand the issue, including different perspectives on that issue, but you still feel this way, then that’s fair. It shows you’ve learned to critically assess the issue from all sides. You’re still allowed to have an opinion, you just need to make sure you back it up and demonstrate you understand the other positions on these complex and often controversial health issues.”

What does Dr. Pringle find most impressive about TRSM and Ryerson? The culture of innovation. “The DMZ and the Social Media Lab have incredible spread and interest. In fact, I was speaking with Anatoliy Gruzd [Director of the Social Media Lab] because I’m working with him on learning how to use his Netlytic service for some of my own research. You wouldn’t find that kind of innovative, edgy research being done in some of the more traditional universities. As a faculty member, it’s great to be able to tap into that.”

Do you have a passion for business and healthcare? Check out the Ted Rogers School of Health Services Management to learn more.

Are you a current TRSM student or thinking of joining us in the future? Share your TRSM story with the hashtag #ThisIsTRSM.