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Making Interprofessional Competency “Visible”

Continuing and Professional Development Blog

March 2017

We are having a conversation.  I am a physician and you are a physical therapist, both of us clinical educators, both of us invested in actively promoting interprofessional (IP) education and understanding on behalf of IP collaborative practice.  We know the competency domains for IP collaboration, we mutually share them as a vision for how we teach and work with health professions students and faculty.  But, is our role-modeling of IP communication and collaboration sufficient to make IP competency “visible” to our learners? 

Activities:  IP team-building exercises, case analyses, curriculum working groups, simulations and clinical student teams:  we use these opportunities to teach the importance of an IP approach to learning and patient care practices.  These creative activities are working:  working on the surface, the outer edges of the construct of IP learning.  Do they help learners to incorporate the IPEC competencies (shared values and ethics, roles and responsibilities for collaborative practice, interprofessional communication skills, and interprofessional teamwork and team-based practice) into their professional identities as healthcare providers?

We ask ourselves, how do our learners, observing us, understand our IP role-modeling conversations?  What could we do to make IP competency truly “visible”?

Interprofessional values and ethics and authentic, real teamwork are not only surface-level characteristics.  They are deeper beliefs and ways of interacting that are based on a shared philosophy that mutual understanding and interrelatedness are the best ways to optimize patient and client care.  Simply knowing the roles and responsibilities of other persons in a working group does not equate with IP team functioning.  Passing necessary educational or clinical information between persons of different professions is not necessarily IP communication; it is communication between different professionals.

We can talk about and show the “how” of IP education and collaboration.  Our challenge is to teach the “why” behind our talk, our shared efforts, rather than defaulting the learning to inference and assumptions about what it appears that we are doing.

I suggest that we delve into our IP values and skills with greater intentionality, to not only demonstrate our IP collaboration to our learners who observe and listen to these discussions. We can begin to explain thoughtfully the basis for our actions and conversations.  We can engage our learners at a deeper level of understanding.  We can explore how they understand what they observe.

Our values are not only based on our professional trainings, but on our mutual goal to support and care for our patients.   Our communication is not simply based on an exchange of profession-specific information and expertise, but on our commitment to listen and reflect on our individual contributions to the team.  Finally, our IP team is not a collection or group of professional experts, but an interdependent and complementary micro-system with a shared goal to provide the best education and care.  When we “see” it happening, we “know” it.  We just need to describe it and ask if our learners “get” it!