The importance of interprofessional curriculum for building high performing healthcare teams

By Allison Shorten, Associate Editor, Evidence Based Nursing

Last week I had the opportunity to attend The Nexus Summit: Provocative Ideas for Practical Interprofessional Education (IPE) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Hosted by the National Center for IPE, this annual conference provides an amazing showcase of what happens when creative interprofessional (IP) teams get together to design innovative educational experiences and build collaborative models of healthcare.

What is IPE and why is it important for nursing education?

“Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as a member of the collaborative practice team. This is a key step in moving health systems from fragmentation to a position of strength.”1

The WHO framework for IPE and collaborative practice emphasizes the benefits of IP care in reducing fragmentation within our systems of care to improve patient experiences and outcomes.1,2 A consistent theme throughout the Nexus Summit was the importance of building high performing IP healthcare teams to create better experiences and outcomes for patients. This comes back to how we educate students in all healthcare professions and design programs that embed meaningful rather than tokenistic experiences, for students of different professions to learn about each other and how they can work together to improve patient care.

Conference participants shared some wonderful examples of how they had pushed the boundaries of traditional healthcare education and practice models to develop a wide range of case-based, simulation-based, virtual simulation, and community-based IPE experiences. There were numerous examples of community-based IP service learning experiences with students working together to address health disparities in their local communities.

IPE faculty development programs and toolkits are readily available to help those interested in getting started with IP curriculum in their institutions. Evaluating IP education is important but also challenging. There are numerous resources to help with this as well. These resources can be found on the NEXUS web-site

IPE is not a new idea, but it has been challenging to implement in practice. It requires active engagement and commitment from all professions in the healthcare team – to put the patient in the center and to examine new ways of learning, teaching, and practicing as we implement different ways of communicating and working together as a collaborative IP healthcare team.

1. World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Framework for action on interprofessional education & collaborative practice. Geneva: World Health Organization.
2. American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Interprofessional Education
3. About the NEXUS

Allison Shorten, RN, RM, PhD
School of Nursing
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
Director, Office of Interprofessional Curriculum

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