Interprofessional Education

It is always stunning and almost beautiful to see experienced and passionate care providers come to know and respect each other across a professional discipline education divide.  We enter these learning experiences willingly; but perhaps with some trepidation and defense of our individual professional identities.  We are, after all, experienced and expert in our own uni-professional knowledge, steeped in our professional culture and beliefs about how we contribute to our patients’ interests.  What’s at play in these interprofessional development experiences:  perhaps pride, unconscious bias, gaps in understanding that are not always explored without some externally generated stimulating questions.  The results:  acknowledgement of shared concerns and challenges, innovative ideas and incredible energy for changing health professions teaching and learning!

These are my reflections from thirty five thousand feet above the Earth, returning home to Boston from Singapore, after a successful interprofessional development week. This long-running collaboration brought together clinician-educators from across two healthcare organizations, multiple hospital and clinic sites, clinical disciplines and specialties: the initial challenges that individual health professionals experience when imagining a truly interprofessional approach to learning are global.  So are the shared wins!

As busy healthcare providers, we know that we bring our individual professional knowledge and expertise to our patient care and the clinical teams on which we work.  Many of us work in environments that depend on our abilities to communicate and collaborate across disciplines and professions.  We may take for granted the guidelines and structures that support our planned team-based efforts on behalf of our patients, grateful that they exist to manage expectations and optimize quality care.  Yet, can we imagine our clinical environment without these constructs?  They were created only recently to “manage” and foster an interprofessional approach to patient care.  Would we consciously behave in an interprofessional manner without them?

But, back to the parallel: interprofessional education; it takes patience and creativity, well-crafted, relevant opportunities that are respectful of differences and yet, patient- and learner-centered, to foster true interprofessional learning.  It takes co-teaching across professions, demonstrating authentic sharing and interest in each other as individuals.  It takes persistent efforts to reinforce the relational aspects of teaching, shared learning, and patient care.  Increasingly, our pre-clinical students are actively learning together, with the expectation that this is the environment in which they will practice their professions.

Let’s keep up the hard work of preparing ourselves, as practicing clinician-educators, to work across our professions in order to learn together and to build the bridge from the university learning experience to the clinical team-based environment that supports our patients and our learners.  Our students deserve no less.

Sue Farrell

Dr. Farrell graduated from Syracuse University with a BS in engineering, and earned her M.D. at Tufts University School of Medicine in 1990. Her clinical training was in emergency medicine and medical toxicology, both at The Medical College of Pennsylvania. She has worked in medical education at Harvard Medical School for almost 20 years, as the Director of Student Programs and the Emergency Medicine Clerkship at BWH for seven years, and as a course tutor and lecturer at HMS. She completed her Masters in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2008, with a focus on assessment and evaluation methods. Dr. Farrell has been a Rabkin Fellow in Medical Education, a Harvard Macy Scholar, and faculty and steering committee member of the Harvard Macy Educator courses. She is the Director of the comprehensive clinical skills OSCE examination at Harvard Medical School, and worked as an educator in the Partners Healthcare Office for Graduate Medical Education and a Program Director at Partners Healthcare International. At PHI, Dr. Farrell created and implemented faculty development programs in undergraduate, post-graduate, and interprofessional clinical curriculum and assessment methods. Her international work includes the development of resident-teacher programs in New Zealand, the creation of inter-professional programs in Singapore, the design of new post-graduate training programs, and physician curriculum development for a hospital system in India. Dr. Farrell’s interests are in curriculum development, methods for assessing clinical skills and program evaluation, and interprofessional faculty development related to clinical teaching and assessment skills. In 2016, she joined the MGH IHP as the Director of Continuing and Professional Development, responsible for the oversight and support of internal continuing education endeavors, as well as the development of new external professional development initiatives.

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Posted in Continuing Professional Development, Interprofessional Education
One comment on “Interprofessional Education
  1. Peter S. Cahn Peter S. Cahn says:

    Eloquently put! Did your work in Singapore reveal any of the cultural barriers to interprofessional collaboration?

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