Working together while respecting the expertise of other disciplines is essential.
Historically, healthcare professionals were educated in isolation without knowledge of educational requirements and scopes of practice of other disciplines. Not any more.
The 2003 Institute of Medicine report titled Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality identified five competencies all healthcare professionals need to reduce errors, three of which are cooperation, communication, and coordination. [The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine was renamed Health and Medicine Division in 2016.] Providing safe, effective patient care requires that all members of the healthcare team, regardless of discipline, have expertise in their fields of study. But healthcare providers often fail to understand the educational preparation and practice of professionals in other disciplines.
Why interprofessional collaboration?
To provide proper care and improve patient outcomes, today’s nurses must collaborate effectively with members of the healthcare team from other disciplines. That means working together as team members and team leaders. To do that, they must understand each member’s education, scope of practice, and areas of expertise. Learning the language, norms, and special foci of other disciplines fosters more effective use of resources and knowledge.
In 2009, six healthcare education associations in the United States established the Interprofessional Education Collaborative: American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Dental Education Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, and Association of Schools of Public Health. Together, these organizations have worked to define interprofessional collaboration and four core competencies: 1) values and ethics for interprofessional practice, 2) roles and responsibilities for collaborative practice, 3) interprofessional communication practices, and 4) interprofessional teamwork.
To sum up these competency domains, embracing the values and ethics of interprofessional practice means working together while respecting the expertise of those in other disciplines. Being aware of the professional roles and responsibilities of other team members; communicating effectively with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals; and building relationships to plan, implement, and evaluate safe care all contribute to the health of patients and communities. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has integrated these collaborative expectations into its “essentials” for baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral education for advanced practice, and they are also included in the educational expectations of other healthcare disciplines.
In 2010, the World Health Organization issued a statement of support for interprofessional education—emphasizing that, to strengthen global healthcare, students must learn with, from, and about members of other health professions. In 2016, further revisions by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative established interprofessional collaboration as an overall focus of the four competencies and called for increased emphasis on population health.
Our interprofessional journey
As a pediatric nurse practitioner and a community health nurse who seek to improve the health of vulnerable populations, we have broadened our focus by collaborating with physicians, nurse colleagues, and other health professionals. For example, to improve the health of elementary school students, we formed an interdisciplinary community health collaborative.
Working with the school system offered, in turn, new opportunities to collaborate with others, both within and outside the healthcare system. An eight-week program by nursing, physical education, and exercise science faculty for second-grade children that involved undergraduate students, school administrators, nurses, physical education teachers, classroom teachers, and parents expanded to include collaborative partnerships with 10 community organizations that work together to improve child health in an urban community. By involving undergraduate students in our interprofessional project to improve patient health outcomes, we model interprofessional collaboration. Having a common focus enables multiple disciplines to combine their expertise.
Historically, interprofessional education was not included in the curricula for healthcare professionals. Instead, students preparing for each discipline were educated in isolation from students of other disciplines, and there was little knowledge of the educational requirements or scopes of practice of other health professions. Today, students are being prepared to be members of an interdisciplinary healthcare team and are learning to focus on each patient as an individual, rather than a treatment or diagnosis.
The future of interprofessional collaboration
Benefits of interprofessional collaboration—for nurses, other healthcare professionals, and patients—include improved patient outcomes, fewer preventable errors, reduced healthcare costs, and improved relationships with other disciplines. Enhanced communication among disciplines also leads to decreased workloads for all health professionals by minimizing duplicated effort and increasing knowledge. Building relationships with professionals in other disciplines leads to better understanding.
Are you ready to embark on an interprofessional collaborative journey? Before doing so, ask yourself these questions: What population are you focusing on? How can you collaborate interprofessionally? What opportunities exist for you to collaborate interprofessionally? What disciplines outside of healthcare could you collaborate with? What organizations could you collaborate with?
Tami L. Jakubowski, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC, CSN, is associate professor at Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions, Gwynedd Mercy University, Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, USA. Tracy J. Perron, PhD, RN, CNE, CSN, is assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey, USA. RNL
On Saturday, 21 July 2018, Tami Jakubowski and Tracy Perron will present two sessions at Sigma’s 29th International Nursing Research Congress in Melbourne, Australia: 1) “The Evolution of an Interprofessional Approach to Combatting Childhood Obesity in an Urban Setting,” and 2) “Preparing Nursing Students for Population Health Using a Community Engaged Pedagogical Approach.” Register here for congress.
Check out these additional articles by presenters at the 29th International Nursing Research Congress.