Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Bringing together multiple voices into co-ordinated healthcare

andrew lynch 2
PhD candidate Andrew Lynch has been exploring the different understandings of inter-professional collaborative practice held by professionals working in primary health care contexts.


Although Tamaki Campus may be less populated than in the past, few people would not know PhD candidate Andrew Lynch by sight, even if not by name.

The self-described ‘bearded one” admits he tends to stand out in a crowd, having let his beard grow over the past couple of years.

But behind the waywardly enthusiastic beard is a passion for working with a group he describes as “clever, funny and supportive people” within Health Systems in the School of Population Health.

“I’m employed half-time as a Professional Teaching Fellow with responsibility for POPLHLTH 300 a new and exciting third year course in the BHSc which sits alongside POPLHLTH 302 in preparing students for the workforce upon graduation. I am also in the final year of my doctoral study and am planning to submit at the end of 2018,” says Andrew.

Andrew says his work in POPLHLTH300 is rewarding because it is a practical course assisting students to be more work-ready. “The course develops the students’ skills and knowledge in project management and working as a part of a team through a series of simulated activity based on a funder’s Request for Proposals (RFP) which is based on a real-world complex health problem.

“Students are assigned to teams of 4-5 people: half of the teams locate themselves within a health/social service organisation and write a project proposal in response to the RFP. The other half of the teams locate themselves in the role of funder who develop and implement a reviewer guide to evaluate the project proposals. This simulated process creates extraordinary opportunities for learning about themselves, their competencies, and the health system.”

Working towards his PhD, Andrew has been exploring the different understandings of inter-professional collaborative practice and reflective practice held by professionals working in primary health care contexts.

It’s a topic he’s passionate about.  “Increasingly we talk about collaborative practice in health, but I know that different professionals do not always have a common understanding of what collaborative practice looks like, what supports it, and what gets in the way of being collaborative with others.

“I argue that the first step in being able to create appropriate environments to allow collaboration to flourish is to ensure we have a deep understanding of how different people, professions, and organisations understand collaboration. This is more important than ever before as we struggle to visualise how our primary health care sector will be able to respond effectively to the challenges presented by changing demographics of our communities, changes to the health sector workforce, and increasing pressure on the health dollar.”

Picking at the seams, Andrew says the motivations for his work are various but have been informed by three main threads in his personal professional life. “Firstly, I am a social worker who has been increasingly influenced by narrative ideas of working – particularly those ideas espoused by Michael White who emphasises the importance of the narratives people tell themselves and others and the connections between these stories and manifestations of power.

“This influence prompted me to adopt a critical hermeneutic theoretical perspective in my doctoral study and to ensure I gave the professionals I interviewed a chance to tell their stories of what collaborative practice is, and can be, and how these stories of collaboration connect to manifestations of power.

“A second significant influence on my work has been my 20-year relationship with my life partner who is a medical specialist. Our different ways of seeing the world, talking about our work, and making sense of the practices we encounter in the health sector have strongly influenced my long-standing interest in inter-professional collaborative practice. Across the decades of our conversations, both of us continue to deepen our resolve that no one profession is able to be as effective in responding to the health care needs of people in our communities as a group of professionals collaboratively working together can be.”

And, in the late 2000s Andrew worked on a project strengthening the connections between the health promotion workforce and primary health care. Whilst there were many exciting opportunities emerging, there was also the frustrations of obstacles getting in the way.

It was, he says, a moment that consolidated his thinking of continuing to create opportunities for the multiple voices of different groups working in primary health care to be heard, and to enable these groups to work more effectively with each other.

“New Zealand was held up as a shining light when we released and began implementing our Primary Health Care Strategy in 2001. However, we have stumbled and hesitated along the way with this implementation. I see my work on inter-professional collaborative practice as one small way for us to re-connect with this important vision of a future Alma-Ata-inspired primary health care system *.”

When he completes his PhD, Andrew will seek a permanent academic position (his preference is in Auckland). “I want to keep teaching, which I love, and further develop my research portfolio in collaborative and reflective practices.”

*Alma-Ata: This approach is usually articulated as primary care that goes beyond what individual physicians can provide. It is about a primary health care system which is accessible to all, responds to people on the basis of need (rather than privilege or ability to pay), is comprehensive (with an emphasis on prevention and health promotion), develops strong connections with communities, recognises that 'health' requires inter-sectoral coordination with wider social systems that go beyond clinical care.

This article was first published in the July 2018 Tāmaki Update