Busy hospitals, bustling community health centers, relentless staffing shortages, greater complexity to patient care, and constant change combined with a fractured health care team often lead to vital information being overlooked and, as a result, to poor health outcomes among patients. Health care systems cannot function effectively in silos. Instead, health care providers must prepare for interprofessional collaborative practice to ensure teams function successfully (Kauff et al., 2023).
Because of these considerations, many health degree programs now incorporate opportunities for interprofessional education to promote collaboration, and it’s important to continue to model this behavior throughout nurses’ and other health professionals’ careers. Nursing professional development (NPD) specialists have a unique opportunity to meet this need by providing lifelong learning opportunities through interprofessional collaboration, and there are many opportunities to incorporate interprofessional education into institutional curriculums. However, to do this, NPD practitioners must collaborate with educators from other professions.
The Interprofessional Education Collaboration (IPEC) recommends four core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice (IPEC, 2016). These four competencies are listed below along with examples and suggestions of how they can be applied to NPD practice.
- Values/Ethics—“Work with individuals of other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values.” (IPEC, 2016, p.10)
NPD practitioners can apply this competency by inviting members from other disciplines to sit in on their NPD planning meetings. In our own organization, we’ve included three interprofessional collaborative committee members, who attend monthly meetings from the fields of health information management, public health, and mental health counseling.
- Roles/Responsibilities: “Use the knowledge of one’s own role and those of other professions to appropriately address the health care needs of patients and to promote and advance the health of populations.” (IPEC, 2016, p.10)
Consider providing formalized opportunities for interprofessional collaboration. An example of this is a nurse-physician preceptor experience, where nurses at an organization precepted third-year medical students. After this experience, attitudes of both the nurses and medical students toward nurse-physician collaboration improved (Woolforde, 2022).
- Interprofessional Communication: “Communication with patients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields in a responsive and responsible manner that supports a team approach to the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease.” (IPEC, 2016, p.10)
Encourage communication from varied perspectives as a way to apply this competency. For example, when working in a clinical environment, and developing a care plan with a patient and their family, the interprofessional healthcare team can empower the patient and family by involving them in goal setting and explaining how the unique roles within the care team contribute to their care.
- Teams and Teamwork: “Apply relationship-building values and the principles of team dynamics to perform effectively in different team roles to plan, deliver, and evaluate patient/population-centered care and population health programs and policies that are safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable.” (IPEC, 2016, p.10)
Build relationships through interprofessional teams and teamwork by expanding NPD content to support the needs of various professions. For example, during our annual health education conference led by NPD practitioners, a panel of experienced professionals and leaders from multiple areas of health care discussed how they have leveraged their interprofessional teams to address ethical challenges and improve outcomes.
Barriers to Collaboration
Although interprofessional collaborative efforts are widely acknowledged as beneficial, the implementation of varied professional perspectives is not without challenges. Eliciting buy-in from health care disciplines outside of nursing requires the need to invite ideas and perspectives that are not innate to your initial thoughts and experiences. This may result in friction within the group, as educational priorities shift to invite a broader range of perspectives and needs. As a result, the professional development unit must take purposeful action to set aside role bias and preconceived understanding of role hierarchy. Acknowledging the collective value of varied professional roles in exploring health care topics empowers individuals to share diverse perspectives and experiences that will enrich understanding.
In order to create an environment that fosters collaborative sharing, NPD practitioners should take purposeful steps to cultivate interprofessional partnerships. This can occur by first acknowledging the value of the collaborative perspective to your group and inviting attendance to a provider unit meeting. This deliberate action of fostering interprofessional collaboration within NPD practice paves the way toward improving the way health care teams work together to improve patient outcomes. IPEC is currently updating their core competencies, which can be used to guide NPD practitioners and other health professionals forward in the development of effective interprofessional health care teams.
Interprofessional Education Collaborative [IPEC] (2016). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice. 2016 update. Washington, DC: Interprofessional Education Collaborative.
Kauff, M., Buhrmann, T., Golz, F., Simon, L., Luers, G., Wulfhorst, B. (2023). Teaching interprofessional collaboration among future healthcare professionals. Frontiers in Psychology, 14. Doi.10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1185730
Woolforde, L., Mercado, N., Pawelczak, M., Callahan, B. & Block, L. (2022). Interprofessional precepting: A nursing-medicine partnership. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 38 (5),302-307. doi: 10.1097/NND.0000000000000860