Collaborative Healthcare: Interprofessional Practice, Education and Evaluation (JCIPE)


The need for health profession students to engage in collaborative interprofessional education (IPE) is abundantly evident. In contemporary practice, creating clinical environments which promote healing relies not just on the dispositions of individual clinicians, but also on the collective capacities of interprofessional healthcare teams (Konrad & Browning, 2012). Health profession educators are therefore increasingly challenged to: 1. design robust pedagogical curricula that prepare students with discipline-specific competencies to care for future patients; 2. offer shared learning experiences in which students develop interprofessional, team-based capacities grounded in intentional and respectful collaboration; and 3. cultivate an interprofessional culture amongst faculty that models principles and practice being taught to students. These educational objectives emanate from comparable recommendations authored by the Institute of Medicine (2003) and national Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) Expert Panel (2011).

Barriers that derail interprofessional learning are well described in the literature (Barr, 2005; De Los Santos, McFarlin & Martin, 2014). They include ever-expanding curricular requirements already difficult to fulfill, scheduling and logistical obstacles, limited space for interactive learning with larger groups, accreditation requirements, and deeply entrenched departmental traditions and philosophies. Moreover, time for faculty development which builds instructional capacity for collaborative learning is commonly limited or overlooked, negating a critical ingredient for interprofessional culture change.

Over the last decade, health professions faculty and leadership at the University of New England (UNE) have worked to embed a culture of collectivity and interprofessional working across programs. Collaborative culture is reflected in the intentionality with which health professions faculty co-develop and implement learning opportunities to meet the shared learning needs of their students. It is similarly evidenced in the seamless ways in which students come together to learn from each other in classroom, simulation, clinical rotation, and community-based service learning.

Despite these efforts, many of the challenges cited above exist at UNE, given the goal of exposing 13 health profession programs on two campuses to core IPE competencies. Online learning offered one approach to reduce barriers and overcome location and space challenges. Epistemologically, online learning is grounded in social constructivism where learners create meaning through dialogue and exchange (Snyder, 2009). Adult learners are motivated and bring knowledge and their own past experience to the educational environment (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998). Through personal reflection and online peer interaction, students unite prior knowledge with new learning, thereby creating or constructing new understanding (Snyder, 2009). In order to achieve this, online instructional design necessitates authentic and personally relevant learning activities and assignments.