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Getting Started in IPE – 5 Things You Can Do Right Now

Sometimes I wonder how we got here.  About a decade ago, there were just a few small IPE conferences and it was common to see the same people at each one. There were a handful of well-known programs that we all wanted to be like when our IPE programs grew up.  And here we are in 2019, with health care leaders, policy makers, accreditors, providers, educators and many others all working to assure that our current and future workforce is prepared for high performance teamwork across professions.

Just this year alone, we’ve seen major reports released from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), the National Collaborative for Improving Clinical Learning Environments (NCICLE) and the Health Professions Accreditors Collaborative (HPAC) offering guidance on how to create optimal interprofessional learning.

The Perfect Storm in IPE

I think it would be fair to say that we have arrived at the perfect storm – a powerful combination of incentives for both practice and education to move the needle on IPE, ideally, in a convergent direction. On the practice side, there is some urgency to find the optimal combination of people and processes to consistently achieve outcomes and value-based payment incentives. It’s exciting to see so many settings experimenting with new team roles and workflows.  And while it’s still common to see gaps between what students learn about teamwork in the classroom and what they see in practice, I’ve observed many practice teams that embody characteristics of high performance teamwork and rely on their members to address the complex problems that face them and support each other.

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Today, academic and clinical faculty are challenged to develop IPE that meets growing accreditation requirements as well as health system needs for students who are “collaboration ready.” Now more than ever, students need to exit health professions programs with the values and skills related to roles, communication and teamwork enumerated in the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) competencies. They must be prepared to step into and lead well-functioning practice teams.

The new guidance document on developing quality IPE for the health professions – endorsed by 24 HPAC accrediting agencies – sets an important stage with both consensus definitions and framework for faculty charged with developing quality IPE programs.

In the proceedings of their 2017 Symposium, NCICLE proposes that all participants in the interprofessional clinical learning environment are learners, including academic and clinical faculty, with responsibility for role modeling effective team behaviors for high quality, safe patient care. The growing attention to the CLE offers many new and promising pathways to bring education and practice together – with key roles at every level of educational institutions and health care organizations.

For Faculty, It May Be the “How” Rather Than the “What”

In the last few months, I have been greatly encouraged by the interest expressed by faculty – both academic and clinical - in learning how to deliver quality interprofessional education. I’m also very aware that, now more than at any other time that I can remember, faculty may be challenged by having too many resources rather than too few. 

At a recent conference of clinical educators, members of the CAIPER team were asked to share our favorite IPE references and several of the learning resources we have developed. The comment and questions we heard most frequently were, “These materials are great, but I don’t know how to start.  What do I do with these eLearning modules, these podcasts, these blogs….? When do I use them? How do I use them?”

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CAIPER has several initiatives underway to address these questions and requests for assistance, and to guide faculty through IPE resources. We’ve invited academic and clinical faculty colleagues to help us refine some of the learning materials we’ve developed to make them easier and quicker to use in courses and clinical rotations.    

Some of the changes we’re planning to have in place for faculty for Fall ’19 courses include:

  • Learning packages to accompany CAIPER’s eLearning modules and podcasts with suggested discussion topics and group activities;
  • Built in certificates of completion;
  • Brief annotated summaries of key IPE resources and references including assessment tools.

My Top Five Things to Get Started in IPE

Top 5 things you can do to get started in IPE infographic

I’ve been thinking about what I would suggest to faculty who want to get things underway and need a place to start.  Here’s five things I think are important for finding solid ground in IPE...

1. Self-Reflection

Take a few moments to reflect on your own experiences on teams and what was important to you. My guess is that you’ll likely identify many of the core competencies for interprofessional collaboration now incorporated into many accreditation guidelines, like respect and trust among team members, clear communication, and role clarity.

Good teamwork starts with awareness of self in relationship to others (Thank you Rob Kaplan for your lessons in contemplative learning!). This is also a great way to initiate a conversation with your peers, students, and collaborators as you create your own community of learning and/ or practice together.

2. Get Familiar with Core Competencies

Read and become familiar with the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) competencies. Don’t try to include all of them in your course objectives. There’s 39 of them! Consider the level of your students, their previous exposure to teamwork and students from other professions, and then choose one or two from each of the four areas and operationalize what competent practice would look like. CAIPER or your local IPE center can guide you to resources to help on this.

3. Use the Power of Practice Experience 

Identify ways that your learners can see these competencies in practice. They’re far more powerful when experienced in the clinical learning environment. Learners might shadow team members from other professions, participate in huddles or team meetings. Encourage them to talk about and debrief on these experiences.

4. Role Modeling

Consider ways you can model teamwork and teamwork competencies in your teaching and practice. My experience is that students watch faculty and preceptors closely for their consistency with the values they’re teaching. They notice (and often comment on) expressions of respect and trust and other hallmarks of effective teamwork. In one course that I taught with a colleague from architecture, students shared that our collaborative teaching style was one of the most impactful parts of their learning.

5. Systematic Assessment - Using Well Tested and Valid Tools

Choose one or two ways to assess learning. My strong recommendation here is to choose well validated IPE surveys and observation tools, especially short low-burden ones developed to use quickly in the clinical setting. CAIPER and several of the IP Resources sites can guide you on this.

Time to Take Action!

There’s a lot of great resources and guidance to help faculty get started in IPE. I’m very excited to see CAIPER take a proactive stance on making sure that faculty have practical and ready-to-use materials at their fingertips.  Hope my five top ways are useful! 

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About the Author

Gerri LambGerri Lamb is the Director of ASU’s Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research and Professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. She is committed to supporting the growth of interprofessional initiatives at ASU in collaboration with much-valued academic and clinical partners. She also works to connect local and state activities to the national IPE community in her role as past chair of the American Interprofessional Health Collaborative and liaison to the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education Nexus Innovations Incubator.

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