Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Professor Hitoshi Sohma speaking on Interprofessional Education in the Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Professor Hitoshi Sohma (HS) from the Sapporo Medical University speaks to Julian Fisher (JF) about their experiences of developing and implementing interprofessional education in one of the largerst and most challenging prefectures in Japan.


The Global Independent Commission on health profession education for the 21st Century recommended a health – education systems framework (academic systems), as part of institutional and instructional reforms.

JF: The Hokkaido Prefecture is one of the largest in Japan and you mention that it has similarities to other countries experiencing shortages of health workers / health professionals.

HS: The uneven distribution of medical personnel in Hokkaido accounts for the scarcity of medical services in remote areas. As a result, the anxiety of the population living in those underserved areas increases, posing a serious social concern.  Many Asian and African countries suffer from similar problems.  Thus, these countries might share information and educational problems and discuss about future direction.

The Sapporo Medical University interprofessional education programme involves the departments of Medicine, Nursing, Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. The objective is to (i) strengthen their interest in community health care; (ii) deepen their understanding of the community; (iii) develop an appreciation and sense of empowerment towards community health care; and (iv) develop a sense of mission and devote themselves to community health care.


JF: How did your / your department evaluate of the needs of the community with regard to design and development of IPE program. Could you highlight the work and decision making process to include all stakeholders in the evaluation process ?

HS: We established a working committee to plan and evaluate our IPE.  This committee consists of not only the faculty members of our university but also the medical staffs in remote areas who are involved in IPE.  For assessment we have used Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale (RIPLS) Questionnaire and the original self-assessment questionnaires of students who participated in the IPE program (a before and after study by using the visual-analogue scale).  However, theses evaluations do not seem to sufficient.  I would like to show our data and suggest some problems.


JF: How did you / your team monitoring and quality improvement process of IPE program ?

HS :After IPE programs are finished, we have a meeting for reviewing.  The participants are all students who joined the programs, the working committee members and other staffs involved in the programs in the remote areas.  In that the students groups summarize what they have learned from the IPE, then we discuss points needing improvement.  I would like to present the meeting overview.


JF: Could you present the key program results in terms of i. improving education and service, ii. understanding and establishing effective and appropriate supervisory and service linkages between health professionals, mid-level and community health workers ?

HS ; It looks hard for me to interpret satisfactory results since our IPE programs cover undergraduate students (1st, 2nd, and 3rd year).  On the other hand, this year our university has obtained an award of the Grant-in-Aid educational programs supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.  With this support we are planning to develop our IPE for senior students and also postgraduates, which is expected to result in directly solving the problems.  I would like to talk about our future plan and expected results.