Interprofessional partnerships & collaborative practice

The #HEAchat #LTHEchat on 30th November 2016 20.00GMT is hosted by CAIPE, the UK based Centre for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education @CAIPEUK. We will be exploring the experience, use and development of interprofessional learning to develop collaborative practice.

Perhaps we are talking to the converted when discussing partnership and collaboration with the participants of #HEAchat and #LTHEchat! But partnerships and points of collaboration across professions, disciplines and sectors are exciting, rewarding and can be where the magic happens! Indeed collaborative practice is increasingly regarded as the best way to achieve efficient, effective and sustainable outcomes in many contexts and the ability to work collaboratively is an essential attribute for most graduates

Here’s a proposition for us to consider:
Collaboration in the workplace is more easily achievable when preceded by opportunities to experience interprofessional learning during pre-qualification. This chat takes interprofessional education (IPE), as its starting point and tries to uncover the necessary teaching practice decisions that influence student experience and outcomes.  This blog captures our experience and thinking about IPE in health and social care. However, we hope that the twitterchat will branch out to encompass interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration in other contexts and that we can explore and share our experiences and expertise.   We hope that students as well as educators and practitioners will contribute to this discussion.

IPE, well known to educators, researchers and practitioners in the health and social care professions.  The internationally accepted definition of IPE was produced by CAIPE, “occasions when members or students of two or more professions learn with, from and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care and services,” (CAIPE 2016).  IPE has a long history but has gained momentum recently with at least thirds of UK universities now implementing IPE in pre-registration health and social care courses (Barr, Helme and D’Avray 2014).  The IPE movement worldwide is strengthened by a growing literature exploring pedagogical issues, defining the underpinning theory and building the evidence base. 

Certain core characteristics define true & ultimately most effective IPE:

  • Learning is student-led with tutors facilitating rather than teaching
  • interactive learning takes place in small groups whose members have a common goal;
  • the learning and teaching design must support equality and respect between professions; diversity and difference must be valued; 
  • learning should be centred on the benefit to the patient or service user. 

When designing and delivering IPE it is essential that students are prepared for occasions when they will work with other disciplines.  IPE must be aligned to other aspects of curricula to facilitate integration of learning.  Facilitators also need careful preparation as many educators are more familiar with uniprofessional teaching and learning.  Facilitation of mixed groups can be challenging; facilitators must not only take account of different learning styles but must also be sensitive to deep-seated assumptions and stereotypical views towards other professions  As we move beyond the early challenges of getting IPE off the ground we recognise the need for greater curricular structure. Internationally, frameworks and tools are being developed to define competencies or capabilities for interprofessional working and methods of assessment  Again, these are framed in the health context but the underlying principles will be transferable.

World Health Organisation (2010) argued that IPE produces a collaborative ready workforce, facilitating collaborative practice and therefore enabling best health outcomes for local populations.  In the UK, IPE aligns closely with recent policy priorities such as integration of health and social care and a focus on safety, person-centred care and values-based practice.  There are clear resonances between the central principles of IPE and initiatives such as the Human Factors agenda and Values Based Practice

Despite much progress most educators involved in IPE recognise several challenges when seeking to bring interprofessional groups of students together.  Many of these are logistical.  Courses vary hugely in terms of cohort size, course length and structure, timetabling processes, placement arrangements, regulatory requirements and so on.  Serious attempts to embed interdisciplinary learning may entail structural alignment.  Leadership across disciplines may not sit easily with faculty organisation.  The experience of many IPE educators is that committed “champions” are needed and that a combination of “bottom up” enthusiasm and “top down” managerial support is required. Facilitators will require training and interdisciplinary learning will need to be embedded in each curriculum.  The ultimate goal of interdisciplinary education is to prepare students for the workplace.  Interprofessional learning on placement is therefore the obvious way to link theory and practice.  Some excellent examples of IPE in practice exist in health and social care but, the development of such models remains challenging.  Interprofessional learning in practice will be an interesting topic to explore with educators and practitioners in other sectors.

Partnerships and collaborative relationships are essential in education and in the workplace in most sectors.  We have presented some information on how IPE is developing in health and social care.  We hope participants in this discussion will share their knowledge and experience of interdisciplinary and interprofessional working in other contexts.

Before the discussion we would like you to think about:

  1. Any interprofessional or interdisciplinary learning which takes place in your setting or any opportunities would you like to develop
  2. The challenges or barriers you have you faced (if any) or expect to face and how these can be addressed.
  3. Whether any principles from IPE (described above) might be relevant to your sector
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