Post 6 | The Transformation Essentials series
Interprofessional Education: What is it and why is it important?
The following blog is written by Associate Professor Duncan Reid, Director National Institute of Interprofessional Education and Collaborative
New Zealand, along with many other developed countries in the world has some significant challenges in the provision of health care presently and in the future. As a consequence of improved health care we have a population that is living longer but is living with an increasing number of health conditions. It will be a significant challenge to train sufficient health professionals to provide adequate health care to this aging population as well as many other groups in the community who will require high quality health care.
The World Health Organisation as well as local governments are now recognising this problem and agree that the best way forward is to utilise the current and future health workforce in a better way, i.e. get them to understand each other’s roles better and work together more effectively.
The World Health Organisation, (2010), identifies some key messages in relation to interprofessional education and collaborative practice, these include:
- “Interprofessional education (IPE)occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Interprofessional education is a necessary step in preparing a “collaborative practice-ready” health workforce that is better prepared to respond to local health needs.
- A collaborative practice-ready health worker is someone who has learned how to work in an interprofessional team and is competent to do so.
- Collaborative practice (CP)happens when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work together with patients, families, carers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care. It allows health workers to engage any individual whose skills can help achieve local health goals”.
(World Health Organisation (2010). Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. Technical Report. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation) (p.7)
Current educational practice still has professions trained in relative isolation and struggles to get curricula and clinical placements to align in such a way that students can learn about, from and with each other. In Auckland for example the medical school situated at the University of Auckland is geographically separated from AUT which arguably trains the largest volume of allied health providers. When graduates of these programmes enter the workforce it is expected they will miraculously be able to work in an interprofessional and collaborative way. While this may happen in pockets it is by no means the norm. It is important to realise that to work in an interprofessional way you need to understand your own discipline and then be able to explain where you fit into the health environment before you can work well with others.
Given the curricula time table restraints and the need to learn what you are, the next best place to start to get to grips with IPE and CP is the clinical placement area.Collaboration between tertiary providers and DHB’s to develop entities such as Ko Awatea are key to enriching the health student interaction and creating opportunities for students to work alongside each other and learn from each other.
In June 2012 the first interprofessional student education forum was held at Ko Awatea. Over 100 students from 7 disciplines and 4 tertiary providers attended. This was great success and student feedback was over whelming that we need to do more of this. More importantly consumers of health services want health professional to work this way and when this happens health outcomes are significantly improved.
In summary we are at a point in health care provision where IPE and CP will need to become the norm and more of the above opportunities to train and work together will need to be developed.
Associate Professor Duncan Reid