Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

7 Observations on Sustaining IPE

On reflection it seems to me that there are at least seven observations that we can make, based on the historical developments that have taken place in the field of IPE.

First, we need global agreement on the terminology we use for IPE and CP. We need to get the right words and get the words right. Respecting the work of our colleague at the Centre for Interprofessional Education (CAIPE) in the United Kingdom, we need to assert that the definition of IPE so carefully scribed by CAIPE is not simply airy persiflage. We need to be clear about the lack of an hyphen - it is interprofessional, not inter-professional, education. We need to recognize that interprofessional education is the input to collaboration, with the intention of leading to Collaborative Practice. We need to understand and constantly assert the the reason for our efforts in IPE is the patient/client. We want to ensure and assure that our intended goal is the highest quality of care. Let's mean what we say, and say what we mean!

Second, we need to provide IPE/CP institutional homes on campuses and in practice environments. This means convincing administrators of all ilks that IPE/CP is not just something that can be done off the side of someone’s desk, with an alms’ cup on the corner. We have to show that IPE/CP is not something we do on a Friday afternoon at 3:30 when it’s raining. We need to convince our colleagues that the curricula for IPE/CP crosses the boundaries between their disciplines.

Third, we need to develop interdisciplinary research programs around IPE/CP. Understanding the interprofessional interaction, is an interdisciplinary exercise. We need to recruit a variety of disciplines to that task e.g. linguistics, sociology, anthropology, economics et alia. We need to enrol graduate students from such disciplines and provide them with the same kind of funding that is available for all graduate students. After all, it is a truism that scholarship informs – both on campus and in practice. Hugh Trevor-Roper who was Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford put this issue well: "There is no better way of learning about a subject than by supervising a sympathetic and stimulating research student."

Fourth, we must build strong national associations that are dedicated to furthering IPE/CA and to advocating for policy change and resource re-allocation. This kind of work cannot be done by federations of professional associations which have their own interests to forward (and defend). The emergence of, for example, CAIPE in the UK, CIHC in Canada and AIHC in the USA represent the strong evidence that such organizations are possible.

Fifth, we need to continue to formalize the foundations for IPE/CP. This means a continued and continuing discussion about the wording and logical scope of IPE/CP competencies; a determined effort to conceptualize the ideas that need to be addressed in accreditation documents for as many professions as possible, and the used of legislation whenever possible to move these efforts into requirements for practice. The objective of such activities is to effect system change in post-secondary and practice environments.

Sixth, we must continue our efforts to sponsor and run regional, national & international meetings that are devoted solely to IPE/CP. CAB V and All Together Better Health are indicators that we are capable of mounting meetings which attract academic and practice colleagues who have IPE/CP as their sole mission. Meetings of this focused nature provide the network framework that will bring the interested together. A single session at a professional meeting is not sufficient to meet this end.

Seventh, we must continue to built robust and useful systems for the exchange and disseminate of knowledge that focuses on IPE/CP. The field has develop a number of vehicles to achieve this end. There are now two peer-reviewed journals, an assortment of blogs. CIHC has been using Twitter & Facebook very effectively and of course, there is always Email. One mechanism for learning which is now emerging is file sharing which we shall hopefully see more of. And of course, in this high technology age there are always those mechanisms that are yet to be revealed. The history of IPE/CP shows that these seven observations are clear in many places.

We know that sustaining the momentum of IPE/CP has not been, and will not be an easy task. Making change in health education and health care is like riding a bicycle. If you stop peddling, you will fall off.