The effectiveness of teams comprised of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health care providers is critical to the safe and effective delivery of health care. Teamwork is necessary in the current health care environment because patient problems and health care needs have become so complex that no single practitioner can be expected to manage them effectively alone.
A number of reports, government agencies, and private organizations have been remarking on the association between team effectiveness and patient safety for more than 20 years. The first of the Institute of Medicine reports on this topic, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, is credited with bringing the issue of patient safety to the forefront, and included the figures most often cited in discussions of health care safety issues.
Recommendations to reduce the incidence of medical error and improve the outlook have considered the many causative elements related to health care safety and effectiveness. A number of these recommendations focus on collaboration as a way to improve team effectiveness. Much of the focus has concentrated on physicians and nurses, who form the core dyad on health care teams. The body of literature on interprofessional education to improve team effectiveness is expansive, however health care systems and academic health centers continue to struggle to implement successful methods to enhance collaborative teamwork.
Health professions educational programs share the academic health center setting, but students continue to be educated in discrete and separate programs. There is usually little opportunity for learning together that provides for the makings of common ground and cross-profession understanding. The body of literature on interprofessional education is growing, however much of the literature continues to focus on practicing professionals rather than students. In addition, while faculty are the group of experts charged with educating students, they continue to be the least frequently surveyed.
To address these gaps in the literature, this qualitative study with 32 nursing and medical faculty from 3 Midwestern universities explores faculty perceptions of the preparation of pre-licensure medical and nursing students for interprofessional teamwork and collaboration with one another, and challenges related to student outcomes.
Results suggest that a number of successful curricular strategies and pedagogies used by faculty facilitate students’ learning of interprofessional collaboration. These included authentic experiential learning, as well as faculty mentoring, role modeling, and facilitated reflection. The use of simulated learning experiences, and teaching communication principles and techniques were also important. Faculty who were successful built collaborative relationships with faculty from the other profession, identified common ground between the professions, engaged students in peer learning, and engaged faculty members in cross-professions teaching. The building of interfaculty relationships, and the use of effective strategies and pedagogies helped to overcome structural and functional barriers to interprofessional education found in both the educational and clinical environments.