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Making clinical teaching interprofessional

It is important that course and curriculum design takes account of interprofessional education (IPE). IPE needs to be embedded in the curriculum rather than seen as an ‘add on’, which may be easy to cut when budgets are tight. It is not always easy, however, to champion IPE across different professions, departments and organisations, so let us consider some of the practical ideas that teachers might introduce into day-to-day teaching to promote and raise awareness of IPE.

Freeth suggests that typical successful choices in which to include IPE activities are:

  • ‘clinical and service-based quality improvement initiatives where the embedded model is already well-developed at post-qualification level
  • multi-professional student teams shadowing real teams or providing supervised care
  • curriculum strands that address patient groups whose needs can only be met through interprofessional or interagency collaboration
  • patient-safety initiatives’ (2007, p. 7).

Other ideas might include the following.

  • Introduction of a new clinical protocol, approach or technique.
  • Case conferences (these are often multi-disciplinary, but more emphasis could be placed on learning from other professionals).
  • Bringing learners from different professions together in structured formal sessions around specific topics, or inviting learners from other professions to sessions which traditionally have been for single professions. Teaching modes might include lectures, seminars, tutorials, case studies/scenarios or problem-based learning.
  • Involving learners from different professions to work together in clinical situations (such as the clinic, consulting room, theatre, ward, community, home visits) to learn together and share experiences and perspectives on patient care or understanding of situations.
  • Promoting informal IPE, while providing opportunities for discussion, sharing of knowledge and learning from other professions.

Clinical skills acquisition lends itself well to interprofessional working, particularly in the latter years of the undergraduate course or in postgraduate contexts, such as anaesthetics, operating theatres, clinics or day centres. Guided by the principle ‘learning from one another’, rather than ‘with one another’, the learning uses a range of interprofessional clinical scenarios often using high-fidelity manikins.

Such scenarios can be led by an interprofessional team, co-ordinated by an interprofessional skills teacher. In focusing on learning as a team to address patient care, participants can develop mutual respect and appreciation of the difficulties each may face when dealing with the acutely sick patient. 

Finally, you may wish to think about how you could embed raising awareness around interprofessional issues in your day-to-day work with trainees. Simply asking questions relating to how trainees work with and might learn from other professionals emphasises that you (as a role model) take the views of other professionals seriously.

This can be done as part of routine enquiry about a patient’s progress – ‘So what did the physiotherapist have to say about Mr Smith’s progress over the last two days?’  or ‘Let’s look at the notes, I see that the night nurses wrote… How do you think we should deal with this new information?’ Or you might want to informally or formally involve other professionals in discussions about patient care, management or discharge.

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