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What’s New and Exciting in Interprofessional Education?

Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, MD, MBA, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Team-based education for health professionals in the United States has been on the national scene since 1972 when an Institute of Medicine conference gathered leaders from many health professions and produced a report, “Educating for the Health Team.”1 What’s new is a groundswell of interest again in the United States. Countries around the world have been engaged in interprofessional education (IPE) and collaborative practice for decades with the Center for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education’s definition and principles,2 a foundational series of books on effective IPE coming out of the United Kingdom and Canada,3 the Journal of Interprofessional Care4 and the 2010 World Health Organization’s report, “Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care.”5 There are two alternating biennial international conferences on IPE—All Together Better Health VI6 was held in Kobe, Japan, in 2012, and Collaborating Across Borders IV7 will be in Vancouver, BC, in June of 2013.

When I attended the first Collaborating Across Borders conference in 2007, which began as a US/Canada partnership, Dr Hugh Barr, an international IPE expert, remarked on the importance of advancing IPE in the United States. His viewpoint was that the continuing success of IPE and collaborative practice would require the engagement of educators and practitioners in the United States. Canada has been very successful over the past several years in advancing IPE with the financial and policy support of the provinces. What’s new and exciting is that US accrediting bodies in many of the health professions are now incorporating an expectation for IPE. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has drafted language for a future accreditation standard in IPE.

This new surge of interest coincides with the Affordable Care Act and patient-centered medical homes and Accountable Care Organizations. Effective health care teams are key to achieving the goals of quality, patient centered, and affordable care. Since 2006, the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences (UND SMHS) has offered an interprofessional health care course that is required of several of our health professions’ students and elective for others. We have educated almost 2,000 students in that time period, introducing them to the roles of other health professionals and training them with skills in teamwork and communication.

In 2011, an expert panel representing several health professions developed “Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice.”8 These competencies are an important framework for developing learning experiences and assessing outcomes in IPE. In 2012, UND SMHS, along with seven other institutions, was invited to participate in a Josiah Macy Foundation Grant for IPE Faculty Development, hosted by the University of Washington and the University of Missouri. This collaborative group compared their current IPE experiences and outcomes to begin to establish best practices and to create faculty development resources and experiences.

At UND SMHS, we are working on enhancing our introductory course with regular topical interprofessional seminars, advanced interprofessional case-based studies and simulations, and expanding numbers of clinical sites offering interprofessional student team experiences in chronic disease management or transition of care challenges.

Learning together as health professions students and practitioners is a rewarding and enjoyable experience that will hopefully lead us to develop new models of care delivery and effective interprofessional education and training.

1. Institute of Medicine. Educating for the heath team. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 1972 Oct 3.
2. Centre for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education. www.caipe.org.uk/resources/defining-ipe/.
3. Effective Interprofessional Education series, published by Wiley. www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/idWiley2_search_result.html?query=effective%20interprofessional%20 education.
4. Journal of Interprofessional Care. http://informahealthcare.com/jic.
5. WHO Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. www.who.int/hrh/resources/framework_action/en/.
6. Altogether Better Health conference. www.k-con.co.jp/atbh6.html.
7. Collaborating Across Borders IV. www.cabiv.ca/.
8. Interprofessional Education Collaborative. Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice. May 2011. www.asph.org/userfiles/CollaborativePractice.pdf.

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