About Interprofessional Education

Health Canada describes interprofessional education as learning together to promote collaboration. Interprofessional education involves health care providers learning to work together and sharing in problem solving and decision making to benefit patients by

  • socializing health care providers in working together, in shared problem solving and decision making, towards enhancing the benefit for patients, and other recipients of services; 
  • developing mutual understanding of, and respect for, the contributions of various disciplines; and 
  • instilling the requisite competencies for collaborative practice. 

Interprofessional education should occur before and after entry-to-practice, at the level of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education, and across a continuum of care.

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The origins of interprofessional education (IPE)

Interprofessional education (IPE) began in the 1960s in the United Kingdom (UK) with parallel initiatives in social work and nursing across the country (Barr, 2002). The World Health Organization (WHO) has also been instrumental in the global development of IPE, with initiatives such as ‘Health for All by the Year 2000’ (as cited in Oandasan & Reeves 2005) and ‘Learning to Work Together for Health’ (1988; as cited in Tunstall-Pedoe & Rink, 2003; Hilton 2003). The Centre for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education (CAIPE) in London, England is the UK leader for IPE development. The CAIPE umbrella contains a number of influential sub organizations and publications devoted solely to IPE and IPE research (Barr, 2002; CAIPE Web site, 2005; JET, 2002; Oandasan, 2005) which include the Interprofessional Education Joint Evaluation Team (JET) and the Journal of Interprofessional Care.

IPE programs in North America have developed over the last two decades. Although IECPCP is a relatively new concept in Canada, the number of IPE programs being developed and implemented has increased substantially since Health Canada’s IECPCP call for proposals under the Health Human Resource Strategy. Two of the longest standing Canadian programs are found at the Universities of British Columbia (UBC) and Toronto (UT).

Gilbert et al. (2000) from UBC conducted a very successful IPE related workshop in which learners were placed into teams and asked to re-create an ambiguous Lego® prototype. Gilbert et al. found that teams whose members that could easily merge roles were the most time and product efficient. The outcome of this workshop influenced the development of UBC’s Interprofessional Health and Human Services (IHHS) courses, which are a permanent part of the UBC curriculum for students in health care professions.

The University of Toronto’s week long curriculum, ‘Pain Week,’ is a valuable, mandatory event for students where IPE is delivered in the context of pain assessment and management (Watt-Watson et al., 2004). The successful implementation and sustainability of the Interprofessional Rural Program of BC (BC Academic Health Counsel, 2004) demonstrates the applicability of interprofessional programs to rural as well as urban areas.

In the United States (U.S.), one of the most noted curriculum programs is the Geriatric Interdisciplinary Team Training (GITT) program, which is initiated and funded by the John Hartford Foundation. The GITT program originally developed to teach existing professionals how to "function in interdisciplinary groups within geriatric sites" (Mellor, Hyer & Howe, 2002, p.868). Since its initial implementation, the GITT core program has been applied to graduate students and practicing health professionals, and has led to the creation of many interprofessional evaluation and training techniques (Cole, Waite & Nichols, 2003; Dyer et al., 2003; Flaherty et al., 2003; Fulmer et al., 2005; Heinemann, Schmitt, Farrell & Brallier, 1999; Hyer et al., 2000; Hyer, Skinner, Kane, et al., 2003).

The Geriatric Education Centers (GEC) has created highly referenced and effective IPE initiatives throughout the U.S. GEC program developers recognized the need for interprofessional teaming in geriatric care and developed several programs to address this area. The Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center (RIGEC) is a model example of a sustainable and successful certificate program for Interdisciplinary Practice in Geriatrics in the form of several workshops (Burbank, Owens, Stoukides & Evans, 2002; Clark 2002; Clark, Leinhaas & Filinson, 2002; Owens, Padula & Hume, 2002).

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Production of this material has been made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada



The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada