Interprofessional Education

The importance of interprofessional collaboration and education has been recognized since the 1970s (Alberto and Herth, 2009). What is new is the introduction of simulation and web-based learning—solutions that can be used to can break down traditional barriers to learning together, such as the conflicting schedules of medical and APRN students or their lack of joint clinical learning opportunities. Simulation technology offers a safe environment in which to learn (and make mistakes), while web-based learning makes schedule conflicts more manageable and content more repeatable. If all nursing and medical students are educated in aspects of interprofessional collaboration, such as knowledge of professional roles and responsibilities, effective communication, conflict resolution, and shared decision making, and are exposed to working with other health professional students through simulation and web-based training, they may be more likely to engage in collaboration in future work settings. Further, national quality and safety agendas, including requirements set by the Joint Commission, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the NLN, and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), along with studies that link disruptive behavior between RNs and MDs to negative patient and worker outcomes (Rosenstein and O’Daniel, 2005, 2008), create a strong incentive to not just talk about but actually work on implementing interprofessional collaboration.

England, Canada, and the United States have made strides to improve interprofessional education by bringing students together from academic health science universities and medical centers (e.g., students of nursing, medicine, pharmacy, social work, physical therapy, and public health, among others) in shared learning environments (Tilden, 2010). Defined as “occasions when two or more professions learn with, from, and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care” (Barr et al., 2005), such education is based on the premise that students’ greater familiarity with each other’s roles, competencies, nomenclatures, and scopes of practice will result in more collaborative graduates. It is expected that graduates of programs with interprofessional education will be ready to work effectively in patient-centered teams where miscommunication and undermining behaviors are minimized or eliminated, resulting in safer, more effective care and greater clinician and patient satisfaction. Interprofessional education is thought to foster collaboration in implementing policies and improving services, prepare students to solve problems that exceed the capacity of any one profession, improve future job satisfaction, create a more flexible workforce, modify negative attitudes and perceptions, and remedy failures of trust and communication (Barr, 2002).19


This paragraph draws upon a paper commissioned by the committee on “The Future of Nursing Education,” prepared by Virginia Tilden, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing (see Appendix I on CD-ROM).

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