The advancement of interprofessional education and practice are rapidly evolving trends across the health care system but particularly relevant for the field of palliative care. “I would say that palliative care itself is inherently interprofessional. You can’t practice palliative care without working closely across different professions,” said Veronica Young, PharmD, MPH, FNAP, founding director of The University of Texas at Austin Center for Health Interprofessional Practice and Education. There she leads institutional initiatives in education, practice and scholarship to advance collaborative, person-centered care and population health.
Dr. Young, a scheduled plenary speaker for the Shiley Haynes Institute’s 2023 National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education and Research, March 2 and 3 at the Long Beach, Calif., Hilton Hotel, believes that palliative care professionals could be champions for interprofessional education. “Palliative care naturally brings professionals, patients and families together. It is primed to further how we practice collaboratively.” Her plenary presentation will profile the current state of interprofessional practice across the health care continuum, its historical evolution and current expert consensus on how to advance it in education and practice.
What Is IPE?
Interprofessional education was defined in 2010 by the World Health Organization, which in its “Framework for Action on IPE and Collaborative Practice” stated: “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.”
The Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) was formed in 2009 by six national education associations for the health professions, now up to 21. Starting in 2011, it has released and updated standards for core competencies in IPE for advancing substantive interprofessional learning experiences to prepare future health professionals for collaborative, team-based care of patients. Twenty-four health care accreditation bodies also came together in 2019 as the Health Professions Accreditors Collaborative, releasing a consensus statement on what quality IPE is in collaborative practice.
“We recognize that the quality and safety of how we deliver health care can’t be achieved without effective interprofessional teamwork. IPE stems from the urgent need to improve the quality of health care,” Dr. Young said. “IPE is not an add-on, but should be integrated into health care education and practice.”
The spirit of IPE is learning about, from and with other professionals, she added. IPE is a necessary step in preparing a “collaborative practice-ready work force,” and there is sufficient evidence that effective interprofessional education enables effective collaborative practice. But it has to be intentional. “Intentional IPE is designed to help learners explore each other’s professions—actually listening to and learning from each other, exploring how different professions are unique as well as how they complement each other in practice,” she said.
“Having a foundational appreciation of what IPE is and isn’t and sharing that understanding is how we will bring interprofessional education into that shared space where education crosses into practice,” Dr. Young said. “We know synergies result from bringing professionals together to work collaboratively. Equally important is addressing whether the clinical learning environment supports interprofessional interactions, so that education and training actually translate into collaborative practice.”
Dr. Young challenges those who will hear her plenary to step forward and get involved in brainstorming and thinking about their own practice. “Reflect on our strengths and what we are doing well. How can we come together in innovative ways to create opportunities in education and professional trainings to support interprofessional collaboration that aligns with national core competencies?” She invites them to champion IPE in their own work settings.
Key steps are first to acknowledge that no one can do IPE alone. It requires top-down as well as bottom-up participation. “You need the involvement of frontline personnel, the people who work directly with patients and students, to develop and provide those opportunities. That will not be successful unless there is buy in and ownership from their leaders.”
Start talking, she said. “Think big—but start small. Meet with the right people, making sure multiple professions are represented at the table. What are some small things that can be done to create the environment that will support interprofessional practice—while simultaneously working on engaging more of the leadership?” she said.
“At my institution we provide IPE learning opportunities for students, workshops for residents in various clinical environments, professional development for faculty, and training for clinical teams.”
The momentum is here. IPE is not new, she said. But culture takes time to change. Every step forward moves the needle. “It’s about collectively coming together to change the culture of how we work together to provide care to improve health outcomes for patients, families, and communities.” For more information on the Institute’s 2023 Symposium, see the Symposium Overview page on the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care website.