Interprofessional Education

Nov 15, 2016

It is always stunning and almost beautiful to see experienced and passionate care providers come to know and respect each other across a professional discipline education divide.  We enter these learning experiences willingly; but perhaps with some trepidation and defense of our individual professional identities.  We are, after all, experienced and expert in our own uni-professional knowledge, steeped in our professional culture and beliefs about how we contribute to our patients’ interests.  What’s at play in these interprofessional development experiences:  perhaps pride, unconscious bias, gaps in understanding that are not always explored without some externally generated stimulating questions.  The results:  acknowledgement of shared concerns and challenges, innovative ideas and incredible energy for changing health professions teaching and learning!

These are my reflections from thirty five thousand feet above the Earth, returning home to Boston from Singapore, after a successful interprofessional development week. This long-running collaboration brought together clinician-educators from across two healthcare organizations, multiple hospital and clinic sites, clinical disciplines and specialties: the initial challenges that individual health professionals experience when imagining a truly interprofessional approach to learning are global.  So are the shared wins!

As busy healthcare providers, we know that we bring our individual professional knowledge and expertise to our patient care and the clinical teams on which we work.  Many of us work in environments that depend on our abilities to communicate and collaborate across disciplines and professions.  We may take for granted the guidelines and structures that support our planned team-based efforts on behalf of our patients, grateful that they exist to manage expectations and optimize quality care.  Yet, can we imagine our clinical environment without these constructs?  They were created only recently to “manage” and foster an interprofessional approach to patient care.  Would we consciously behave in an interprofessional manner without them?

But, back to the parallel: interprofessional education; it takes patience and creativity, well-crafted, relevant opportunities that are respectful of differences and yet, patient- and learner-centered, to foster true interprofessional learning.  It takes co-teaching across professions, demonstrating authentic sharing and interest in each other as individuals.  It takes persistent efforts to reinforce the relational aspects of teaching, shared learning, and patient care.  Increasingly, our pre-clinical students are actively learning together, with the expectation that this is the environment in which they will practice their professions.

Let’s keep up the hard work of preparing ourselves, as practicing clinician-educators, to work across our professions in order to learn together and to build the bridge from the university learning experience to the clinical team-based environment that supports our patients and our learners.  Our students deserve no less.

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