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Traditionally, health professionals are educated in silos, but once on the job, they are expected to work together as a team. That's why the Institute of Medicine recommends that interprofessional education be embedded in the curricula of all healthcare disciplines.
Building Trust And Respect
"Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more health professions learn together with the ultimate goal of improving the effectiveness and quality of healthcare," says Dr. Judith Buchanan, director of the Center for Interprofessional Education at the University of Minnesota.
"Learning together" means more than sharing the same classroom. Curricula are structured so that students from different disciplines become familiar with each other's scope of practice and educational requirements, as well as their roles and responsibilities in patient care. "This builds mutual trust and respect, and leads to better communication," Buchanan says.
Students also practice teamwork. During a recent "disaster day," for example, interprofessional teams of students - from nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and medicine - worked under the supervision of faculty facilitators to care for victims of a simulated bomb blast.
The "1 Health" program, proposed to begin this fall, will create interprofessional groups of first year students in medicine, nursing, veterinary medicine, dentistry, public health, laboratory science and occupational therapy.
Members of each group will use special social networking tools to stay in contact. The goal of the program is to develop team skills and possibly foster long-term relationships between students with some commonality, such as interest in rural practice in the same region of the state.
During their years at the U, group members will serve as consultants to one another and team up to work on projects. When they graduate, they will already have a well-developed network of interprofessional colleagues.
"We are experiencing a paradigm shift in healthcare," Buchanan says. "Providers must work together to reduce cost, increase efficiency and improve outcomes for patients."