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About Interprofessional Education

Interprofessional education (IPE) is an approach to teaching, learning, and practice where healthcare students and practitioners from two or more professions learn and train together to develop effective teamwork and communication skills that improve the way they deliver care. Three target areas for IPE are: students/graduate trainees, nursing and medicine faculty, and working clinicians.

Mounting research from organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality has shown that nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals who possess strong teamwork and communication skills provide a higher level of care, which in turn leads to better patient outcomes, greater patient satisfaction, improved efficiency, and increased job satisfaction.

Developing these essential interprofessional communication and collaboration skills requires a restructuring of how we work together as professionals and how we educate those entering the field. Specifically, we need to create a comprehensive framework that will clearly illustrate the wisdom and value of IPE and provide the tools and training needed to support and guide IPE.

This framework will educate and train faculty, and students, and experienced clinicians. IPE training at an undergraduate and graduate level is especially important to this work; since the skills learned early are the skills that one carries through their career.

One of the best ways to promote IPE is to implement team-based learning in both our schools and units, with the idea that if we learn and train together we will work together more efficiently and productively.

Today’s highly technological health care system depends on the smooth operation of large and diverse teams of health care professionals. Yet many of our current training models are still individual- or silo-based, creating communication and teamwork barriers in the work arena. Current educational and structural paradigms don’t teach or support the essential communication and teamwork skills health care professional need in order to practice in a team-based environment.

As a result, several major practice issues have emerged in the past decade that serve as compelling reasons for IPE. Today, widespread medical errors in hospitals are causing substantial preventable mortality and morbidity, as well as major quality issues. A recent analysis of medical claims data listed the annual cost of measureable medical errors in 2008 at $17.1 billion. The Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality’s Patient Safety Initiative has identified communication problems, “human problems” and inadequate information flow as some of the root causes of these medical errors. As, patients present with more complicated conditions and require more complex treatments; the need for better teamwork and communication is paramount.

The focus of IPE is to provide this team-based training to health care professionals early and throughout their education, training and career, so that as health care professionals, they will work more collaboratively, understand each other’s skills set, contributions and goals; communicate better with each other; and provide safer better care.

We are not alone in this view, leading organizations and policy groups, such as the Institute of Medicine, Josiah Macy Junior Foundation, World Health Organization, and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching have endorsed a national mandate to shift to an interprofessional model of education.

The seeds of IPE are already evident across the Johns Hopkins medical landscape, as various clinical and educational programs at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes (JHMI) have implemented numerous IPE-related activities over the past decade. Recently these activities have become a focused priority; however these activities are currently not coordinated, and thus lack the infrastructure and resources to harness the full impact and benefit of IPE at Hopkins. A centralized Interprofessional Collaborative (IPC) could help connect and strengthen these individual efforts and help to establish Hopkins as a leader in inter-professional education, research, and practice. We need a system-wide center that is dedicated to the development, implementation, and evaluation of new models of inter-professional education.