Whether we call it team-based, interdisciplinary or interprofessional education, the concept of different healthcare groups learning together isnt new. An Institute of Medicine report more than 40 years ago, and two more after that, recommended that students from various health professions come together to learn. Finally, in its 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the IOM again recommended interprofessional education and coordination of care by multiple providers as keys to the success of our national healthcare system.
Many organizations have been working toward meeting the goals of this recommendation, and the education model is gaining wide acceptance. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing published core competencies for interprofessional practice and recommended that nursing schools develop curricula giving students from various disciplines the opportunity to interact with one another.
Healthcare leaders from different professions came together to create the Interprofessional Education Collaborative to make education less fragmented and promote a multi-professional approach. Again the concept, which had been introduced in medicine in the 1990s and subsequently adopted by nursing and others, was not new.
Students are working interprofessionally on research in their poster presentations, capstone projects and graduate and PhD programs. Foundations are coming together with funding, grants are being awarded to schools to assist them with new programming and the model is being integrated into health curricula nationwide in the hope that it will be the norm in the not-too-distant future. Interprofessional research is underway, with nurses playing a vital role and finding that building together on research is beneficial to their work and that of their colleagues.
Through all these developments, Nurse.com has taken a leadership role in sharing information with nurses in print and online, and in this issue our feature story (www.Nurse.com/Article/Interprofessional-Education) will examine some current models and how they are working. But we all know theres much more to do.
Education models must help foster mutual respect and the various disciplines must work together to enhance each others practice. Professionals must join with one another in their education and in their care. Students must recognize each others contributions and help create collaborative rather than competitive environments.
Along the way there will be challenges related to role identities, skill variances, diverse educational philosophies, cost constraints and cutbacks in funding. But there also will be opportunities for joint research, shared teaching strategies, pooling of talents and, most important, improved care across the continuum.
The English poet John Donne said, No man is an island , and in todays healthcare neither is any one discipline. We need to break down the barriers and work toward common goals in providing care and do it all as a team. We must be educated that way, hone our skills that way and work that way.