Interprofessional education—it’s a mouthful, and not yet a well-known term.
But it’s a valuable approach to education, especially in today’s health care field.
John Schmidt, DNP, core faculty in Capella University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences and DNP program lead, provides some insights about this growing form of health care education.
What Is Interprofessional Education?
Traditionally, each health care role—doctor, nurse, administrator—had distinct functions with a common goal of patient care, but not much overlap otherwise. As health care has become more complex, the boundaries between these roles are becoming more fluid. That’s where interprofessional education comes in: It brings health care professionals from these different disciplines together to learn and work across common areas.
“Health care has changed over the past 10 years,” says Schmidt. “Doctors, nurses, and health administrators must work as a cohesive team. We can deliver a higher level of care when we each have a deeper understanding of the different facets of patient care.”
Why It’s Needed
If the different roles across health care operate in self-contained silos, there’s a lack of understanding for what the other roles do and how they all contribute to the bigger picture. This can lead to inefficiencies and even conflict between different roles, neither of which is positive in terms of patient care.
That’s where interprofessional education comes in. “When each discipline understands the other roles, what each role means and how it integrates on the entire team, it eliminates a lot of conflicts and allows the team to work together towards an increased quality of patient care,” says Schmidt.
Increased Understanding and Appreciation
A study in Nurse Education Today reports promising results, examining whether the attributes of seven health professions were changed and improved by undergoing interprofessional education.
The study found several instances of increased job satisfaction among physicians and nurses who had undergone such education, as well as reduced negative stereotypes that each may have had about the other, allowing them to work together more cohesively. There were notable differences in how physicians viewed the role of nurses, with most seeing nurses as more central and valuable to the health care process after undergoing the training.
Interprofessional Focus in Capella’s Doctoral Programs
In 2016, Capella restructured programs in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences to make interprofessional education an important feature. Each program offers coursework across professions to create greater insight and working knowledge. “We thought, ‘Why not start that relationship sooner?’” says Schmidt. “There are many similarities across the programs, why not acknowledge that and strengthen the relationship?”
With this new structure, students make connections across professions in coursework, research, and capstone preparation. Through these shared experiences, they will practice the kind of collaboration needed to increase the quality of patient care. “It teaches us to work together, which is truly what we need,” says Schmidt. “When we understand each other’s role, we can create a highly functional interdisciplinary team.”