Physician leading a trauma team of nurses and EMTs. Photo: MilitaryHealth via Creative Commons
Interprofessional health educators, practitioners, researchers, advocates, students, and patients and their families will be gathering together in Vancouver from June 14-16, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency for the fourth international Collaborating Across Borders conference (CABIV). This widely popular conference will be focusing on the theme of “transformative change from classroom to practice,” with delegates meeting to discuss how interprofessional education (IPE) and practice (IPP) stakeholders can work together to strengthen collaborative practice and bring it “into the mainstream.”
“We’re creating openings for people from all different walks of healthcare to find a place for themselves [at CABIV],” says conference co-chair Dr. Lesley Bainbridge. “We want to engage in conversations about what happens between the academic setting and the practice setting, to address the ‘academic-practice divide’. What’s getting in the way of aligning the education programs with practice?”
Although much of the research and advocacy for interprofessionalism usually takes place within educational institutions, Bainbridge notes that a sea-change taking place in the practice environment as well. “We’re seeing a huge change [in the health authorities] where health professionals are stopping and thinking ‘it’s not actually just about us – there are others involved’ and are reaching out to involve others. Young healthcare professionals as well as people who are mid-career or end-of-career are seeing the value of working together and are beginning to define it a little differently.”
Bainbridge is quick to mention that some aspects of collaboration have been practiced for decades amongst healthcare providers; however, the paradigm of collaboration has evolved and is becoming a complex interaction between multiple healthcare professions (such as first responders, physiotherapists, mental health professionals, social workers, etc.) as well as within individual health professions. “There’s another piece to consider as well,” Bainbridge points out. “How do we involve the patient in the concept of collaboration? How do we frame the discussion such that patients are seen as key players in the decisions around their health?”
The involvement of patients in collaboration is not a new concept – patient self-management has been around since the 70s. However, current technologies and easy access to web-based health information – both good and bad – have resulted in a significant increase over the past three years in the numbers of patients using self-management to address chronic health conditions, injuries, and disabilities. Bainbridge observes that the healthcare system is so stressed right now that it’s impossible for every patient to receive the individual one-on-one care that they’re used to from past decades. “Research indicates that if patients have a sense of control over their life and healthcare, they’re more likely to participate in activities that will keep them healthy.”
When asked whether interprofessional collaboration has achieved “critical mass” within healthcare in BC, Bainbridge comments that there still is a fair amount of work to do. She feels there is still a need for people to champion interprofessionalism, and to challenge situations that could utilize collaboration but do not. “There needs to be a cultural shift across the healthcare professions to align them with collaborative practice becoming the norm. There also needs to be organizational support to ensure appropriate expectations, systems, and supports are put in place to allow practitioners to collaborate effectively. We haven’t touched more than the tip of the iceberg on how technology will and can and should enhance collaboration across geographical divides, especially in the rural context. It’s particularly important to get a handle on how technology could be used to help rather than hinder.”
Although interprofessional education continues to gain ground within health sciences learning, there are still many questions that need to be addressed in the design of interprofessional learning and teaching. How can students and practitioners collaborate in a meaningful way? How do practitioners supervise students from other disciplines for whom they are not the content expert? What will the regulatory bodies say about such models of supervision? How should practitioners assess students and their work in interprofessional settings? Bainbridge admits that there is “a ways to go” to really create opportunities for students to be embedded in interprofesional practice setting. She appreciates that meetings such as CABIV allow stakeholders in interprofessional education and practice to collectively share their best ideas and experiences. “We want CABIV to be a real melting pot of all the different players, so that we don’t become too tunnel visioned as educators.”
Dr. Lesley Bainbridge is the Director, Interprofessional Education with UBC, Faculty of Medicine. She also serves as Associate Principal, Interprofessional Programs for UBC’s College of Health Disciplines.
CABIV is hosted bi-annually by the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (CIHC) and the American Interprofessional Health Collaborative (AIHC). To learn more about this conference and/or to register, visit www.cabiv.ca.