Inter-professional education is a form of shared learning that involves two or more students from various criteria in health and social care professions coming together to learn as part of their professional training (Freeth, 2007). The main aim of this form of education is to cultivate collaborative practice; this facilitates a better patient centered healthcare and social service (Freeth, 2007). The purpose of this paper is to analyze all aspects of inter-professional education in order to identify the most influential factors to its success.
The world Health Organization (WHO) was the first global body to identify the advantages of collaborating different healthcare professionals into one form of education as students (Fried & Fottler, 2008). Their rationalization, if they could study together, would also enhance the likelihood that they would be more likely to work together in clinical or work-based teams. This endorsement was the foundation of inter-professional education, and this international trend continues to this day (Fried & Fottler, 2008). The main essence of development and implementation of inter-professional learning was to improve health and social care services to facilitate factors such as; enhanced care in the community, reduced in-patient stays and to inspire changes in professional roles and response in high-profile cases where some were unattended (Quinney, 2006). In 2001, the UK Centre for the Advancement of Inter-professional Education (CAIPE) identified more principles that inter-professional education facilitates. The first principle that is facilitated by inter-professional education is provision of quality healthcare. Inter-professional education is also meant to highlight service users and the needs of healthcare providers (Quinney, 2006). The other role of inter-professional needs is to encourage diffusion of knowledge among different professions. Inter-professional education is also meant to inspire respect and integrity in all professions (Faresjo, 2006). Inter-professional education is supposed to enhance practice within professions and professional satisfaction.
Despite the many principles that inspired the founding of inter-professional education, there is no concrete evidence that inter-professional education facilitates more effective collaborative practice and improved patient/client outcomes. However, according to Quinney (2006), lack of communication and corporation between social and healthcare professionals has been proven to have adverse effects on individuals.
Faresjo (2006) asserts that economic drivers dictate that collaboration and partnership in education and working is more important today than ever before. The author identifies factors such as increasing world population, increasingly complex patients, and scarce healthcare resources mean that healthcare has to be very efficient and effective. In this case, it is crucial that all healthcare professionals work hand in hand to efficiently apply the available resources to supply sufficient healthcare (Faresjo, 2006).
According to Freeth (2007), the general assumption that inter-professional education was based on only service demands around team work, shared knowledge, professional development and collaboration was limited since they ignored the learning theory (Freeth, 2007). Through the application of motivation and adult learning theory, Freeth identifies that inter-professional education may create a gap among the different professions involved hence revealing learning needs to the students and motivating them to close the gap (Barr, 1998). Furthermore, he identified that if the inter-professional education structure is skillfully designed, it will facilitate constructive conflict among the students that will stimulate debate and discussion which will in turn promote professional and personal development (Freeth, 2007).
Individuals can have an opportunity to work successfully in groups if the members within the group appreciate their similarities and differences. This theory is backed by the perception that members within a particular group have similar interests and professional goals. The diversity within a group can only be improved if there is contact and equality within the group. The assessments made by the authors and organizations aforementioned seem to assume that students working and learning in mixed groups will have positive experiences. Despite positive experiences being a very high possibility, inter-professional education may not be so easy to manage in practice. In a study by Barr (1998), he identified that in practice the inter-professional education structure had to be developed to modify mainly the negative attitudes and perceptions, if this was successfully achieved it would facilitate many factors. The structure is supposed to remedy failure in trust and communication between professions. The inter-professional structure is supposed to reinforce collaborative competence and secure collaboration in the implementation of policies. The structure should also effect services and improve change.
Professionals experience some problems that exceed the capacity of their profession at some point in their career (Freeth, 2007). The inter-professional education structure should help these professionals in coping with such problems. The structure should also be able to ease stress and enhance job satisfaction (Freeth, 2007). It is the desire of every organization to have a workforce that is more flexible. Social and healthcare professionals can only become flexible if the inter-professional structure used to train them covers professional flexibility. The structure of inter-professional education should also maintain pace with technological advances while integrating specialist and holistic care. An overview of Freeth (2007) implies that inter-professional education acts as a catalyst of constructive conflict among students which stimulates debates and discussions. The main aim of introducing inter-professional education is to achieve the maximum potential benefit.
Inter-professional education is best introduced at the entry stage of medical school if not prior (Faresjo, 2006). This is because, at this stage, the students are yet to develop stereotyped impressions of other professional groups. The alternative suggestion assumes that the students have already developed these stereotypical impressions even prior to their entry to medical school (Faresjo, 2006). Hence, while it is a significant matter of concern that students have a poor perception of a nurse’s academic ability, societal status and general professional competence of the nurse during the entry stages to medical school (Faresjo, 2006). These perceived notions are based on the influence by societal lack of knowledge regarding nursing concepts within a health care system. This factor may have an impact on the success of early inter-professional teaching initiatives in undergraduate curricula (Faresjo, 2006).
As identified by Barr (1998), in the practice of inter-professional education, the first crucial priority should be to modify the negative attitudes and perceptions of the students (Barr, 1998). This is the foundation of achieving all other inter-professional objectives aforementioned in this paper. A research on entry stage medical students revealed that their perception about nurses and doctors was completely different from that of other students (Quinney, 2006). This group of students is of the opinion that doctors are more arrogant with nurses being the most caring. Entry stage medical students view nurses as less competent with inferior academic abilities (Quinney, 2006). These students acknowledge the fact that nurses have a comparable life experience despite their perceived lower status. Entry stage medical students agree with the suggestion that inter-professional education should begin at an early stage. Moreover, the researchers identified that their results reflected a study carried out almost a decade earlier on a wider scale and timeframe to maximize the results precision (Quinney, 2006).
A mutual understanding and respect for other professional roles is necessary to improve inter-professional relations and at the same time recognize and eliminate all professional stereotypes (Freeth, 2007). However, the majority of entry stage medical students consider nursing to be inferior to the doctor profession including status in society, competence and academic ability. There are various differences in perceptions shared by medical students during the first year regarding various aspects of nursing and doctors’ professions (Freeth, 2007). These perceptions are mostly based on the influence by society misconceptions and other many different experiences experienced by the students in their formative years. The students’ impressions on different professions may have an impact on the success of inter-professional training and how medical and nursing students interact (Freeth, 2007). It could be hypothesized that, among the reasons that medical students on entry to medical school demonstrate such negative perceptions in respect to some characteristics of nurses, is because they are unclear about the range of roles nurses have in a modern health service and the high level of skill they possess. This may be as a result of lack of exposure at this stage of their training to nursing practice hence their view that nurses are inferior (Barr, 1998).
The appropriate time to introduce inter-professional education is yet to be identified (Barr, 1998). However, the negative perceptions identified in the medical students and any resultant behaviors may unconsciously hinder progress in inter-professional education. Furthermore, they may be the foundation of detrimental attitude in the development of professional working behaviors (Barr, 1998). In this case, we can present an argument that an early introduction of shared learning is preferable; this is because it defines the roles and responsibilities of nurses and facilitates exposure to junior medical students to all nursing concepts and importance of their profession, at an early stage in their training (Fried & Fottler, 2008). This is accomplished while maintaining the objective to modify or limit the further development of inappropriate stereotypes which may impair the success of subsequent shared learning experiences.
The ability to work as a multi-professional team is an important criterion in the future clinical practices thus, the importance of inter-professional education (Fried & Fottler, 2008). Furthermore, the future of clinical practices is directly dependant on the perception of the society on healthcare professions since it influences the most crucial factor in inter-professional education (Fried & Fottler, 2008). As opposed to traditional education where high achievement in examinations gave a long-term predictive validity for healthcare academic ability, attributes not associated with academic ability are also important in selecting appropriate future doctors and nurses (Fried & Fottler, 2008). Thus, the selection of these professions should be based on a wider criterion than scores of academic success. It seems that the assessment of attitudes conductive to inter-professional collaboration should form part of the admission assessment (Quinney, 2006).
The time at which inter-professional education should start is still an issue of contention and this should be solved as soon as possible (Faresjo, 2006). The suggestion that inter-professional should be introduced at the entry stage in the medical school is a very viable proposition. The earlier the students begin to practice inter-professional collaboration the easier it would be for them when they get in the field (Faresjo, 2006). The structure and curriculum of inter-professional education should incorporate important issues like honesty and integrity which are very important in the career of healthcare professionals (Freeth, 2007).
Inter-professional education is very crucial in changing the perception of students towards other professions. The principle of quality service delivery is enhanced by inter-professional education because the program enables students to be more flexible (Freeth, 2007). The needs of service providers are considered in inter-professional education as a way of enhancing quality healthcare delivery. Healthcare professionals should be able to collaborate in clinical and work-based teams as a foundation for inter-professional practice (Freeth, 2007). Inter-professional education is supposed to enhance interactive diffusion of knowledge among different professions and at the same time enhance professional satisfaction. There should be a balance of activities at the curriculum level to ensure that inter-professional education serves its purpose (Barr, 1998). The perception of students on other professions should be changed by teachers in order to promote equality within professional groups. The tendency of students to view some professions as inferior to other professions should be addressed by the inter-professional educational structure (Barr, 1998). Students being trained to be doctors should be given more information on the role of nurses in order for them to appreciate their importance in healthcare provision. The inter-professional structure should be able to eliminate all professional stereotypes.
Barr, H. (1998). Competent to collaborate: towards a competency-based model for Inte-rprofessional education. London: MIT Press.
Faresjo, T. (2006). Inter-professional education – to break boundaries and build bridges: Rural and remote health. New York, NY: Wadsworth.
Freeth, D. (2007). Inter-professional learning: Association for the study of medical Education. New York, NY: Thomson Learning.
Fried, B., & Fottler, M. (2008). Human resources in healthcare: managing for success. Chicago, IL: Health Administration Press.
Quinney, A. (2006). Collaborative social work practice learning matters. Chicago, IL: Exeter.