Health care a team effort

James E. Mattson | 10/23/2015

Interprofessional practice and education lead to better outcomes.


A priest, a rabbi, and a pastor walk into a Starbucks. Oh, you’ve heard that one? How about this one? A nurse, a physician, and a case manager walk onto a hospital unit. Now there’s the makings of a joke—or a beautiful interprofessional collaboration.
JEM_ID_embed_SFWIn a recent RNL blog entry titled “From vision to action: Discover the Nexus,” Daniel J. Pesut, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN, past president of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, encourages readers to explore resources available from the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education. In doing so, he refers to interprofessional practice and education as a movement, and, indeed, it is.
One definition of movement is “a tendency or trend in some particular sphere of activity.” Movements come in all sizes, and, from my perspective—not as a nurse but as a journalist observing trends in nursing—the interprofessional practice and education movement is humongous. As such, it will evolve and its emphases shift, but one thing for sure, when a movement is worthy and its time has come, it’s best to become part of it.
From Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice, published in 2010 by the World Health Organization, I’ve learned that the movement has, as its name suggests, two confluent streams—education and practice. I’ve learned that 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” (p. 7). And I’ve learned that interprofessional practice, also known as collaborative practice, “happens when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work together with patients, families, carers [caregivers], and communities to deliver the highest quality of care (p. 7).
With regard to the latter, the same document states: “Many health workers believe themselves to be practicing collaboratively, simply because they work together with other health workers. … Collaboration, however, is not only about agreement and communication, but about creation and synergy. Collaboration occurs when two or more individuals from different backgrounds with complementary skills interact to create a shared understanding that none had previously possessed or could have come to on their own” (p. 36).
I first came across that quote in Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Healthcare. Published by STTI, the book garnered a 2014 AJN Book of the Year Award (second place in the Professional Development and Issues category). Clearly the authors, Riane Eisler, JD, PhD(h), systems scientist and human rights attorney, and Teddie M. Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN, nurse advocate for collaborative care models, are addressing a topic of great interest and importance to nurses.
As you see, I’m learning, and I hope you’ll learn with me. In coming months, you’ll be finding more content on interprofessional practice and education in RNL, a publication that focuses on leadership in one of the health care professions—nursing. In the meantime, in addition to Pesut’s blog entry about Nexus, check out these recently published articles:
  • In “Virtual interprofessional education: An effective tool,” learn about a virtual IPE (interprofessional education) curriculum designed by researchers at New York University (NYU) in which students are paired with virtual team members from other health care professions to improve collaboration and delivery of care. In the spirit of collaboration, the research team was led by Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, assistant professor at NYU College of Nursing, a member of STTI, and Marc Triola, MD, associate professor at NYU School of Medicine.
  • In “I thought I was a well-versed collaborator,” Megan Pfitzinger Lippe, MSN, RN, confesses: “I had defined other professions by their stereotypes rather than by what they truly are. I had much to learn.”
  • In “Promoting nursing research in a multidisciplinary organization” (a sample chapter from STTI’s recently published Fostering a Research Intensive Organization), Sara E. Dolan Looby, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN, presents an overview of nursing'spresence within theresearch infrastructure of Massachusetts General Hospital and identifies interdisciplinary opportunities to enhance research development.
A nurse, a physician, and a case manager walk onto a hospital unit. With the right narrative and punchline, that could be funny, but when health care professionals fail to work—and learn—together in effective collaboration, it’s no joke. When they do, it’s a beautiful thing.
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James E. Mattson is editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership.
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