There is a growing emphasis on interprofessional education in health care as a result of research demonstrating the benefits of interprofessional collaborations in health care that require continuous interaction, coordinated efforts, and knowledge sharing among health care professionals. Proponents of interprofessional collaborations define this practice as enhanced collaboration, wherein each professional’s contribution is valued equally. The benefit of interprofessional collaborations is improved patient outcomes, enhanced provider satisfaction, and more effective utilization of resources, while the challenge is increased competition for the time of health care professionals. The future of clinical education among students in communication sciences and disorders may reflect this approach in the future.

Additionally, changes in the health care industry and societal demographics have affected clinical education across health care professions due to such factors as an increased demand for health care practitioners, an increased number of health care practitioners expected to retire in the near future, increased complexity of patient care resulting in greater demands being placed on existing health care professionals, increased cost-cutting measures in health care resulting in greater workload demands on clinical staff and managers, reduced time devoted to the clinical education of students, and increased numbers of students entering education programs in order to meet personnel demands. These factors have all taxed existing clinical practice education resources.

These issues are resulting in innovations in clinical education and new ways to work together (interprofessional collaborations) through an increased use of technology (e.g., simulations, Web-based learning/e-health practices), preceptor development and support programs, communities of practice, funding initiatives for clinical education, and the establishment of networks to foster the exchange, synthesis, and ethically sound application of knowledge. Two such initiatives addressing interprofessional education include the Practice Education Innovation Fund (PEIF) of the British Columbia Academic Health Council (BCAHC) and the Interprofessional Professionalism Measurement Group (IPPMG) initiative coordinated by the American Physical Therapy Association.

The PEIF was established to support projects aimed at enhancing quality, capacity, and management of clinical education, including interprofessional education for students enrolled in health care education programs in British Columbia. To date, $6 million has been committed to support practice education innovations in community, clinical, and simulated settings. Projects emanating from this initiative range from distributed education, new practice learning models, rural and remote placements, simulation, preceptor education, and infrastructure development resulting in such benefits as:

  • Expanding system capacity for student placement opportunities
  • Building on an advanced placement information system (HSPnet)
  • System standardization through the creation and signing of affiliation agreements
  • Building the infrastructure for cross-sector and cross-disciplinary collaboration
  • Facilitating opportunities for postsecondary institution and Health Authority staff professional development
  • Exploring new models of practice education as well as the sharing of tools and lessons learned
  • Utilizing technology-based learning for preceptors and students

Further information about the PEIF and its outcomes is available on the BC Academic Health Council website.

A consultant group, the IPPMG is composed of representatives from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Dental Education Association, American Physical Therapy Association, American Psychological Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, and the National Board of Medical Examiners. The group first convened in 2006 at the invitation of the American Physical Therapy Association. The consultant group came together to explore and define interprofessional professionalism among doctoral health professions and to consider how relevant measurement tools might be designed. The work of this consultant group culminated with the identification of a number of observable behaviors thought to best illustrate professionalism in the context of interprofessional collaborations while providing patient-centered care. A central goal of the group is to elucidate those aspects of interprofessional behavior that are not well defined in the existing professionalism literature. In addition to the consultant group’s identifying and describing observable behaviors, feedback is being solicited from professionals within each discipline through a variety of means including (a) interactive presentations to be held at the annual conference of each participating professional association in 2008, (b) the opportunity for professionals to complete a 2008 Survey on Interprofessional Professionalism Behaviors, and (c) access to the IPPMG wiki page to engage in discussion on an open group forum. Survey responses/comments will be considered. Feedback, in the aggregate, will guide the direction for future work of the group to develop a tool kit for the assessment of interprofessional professionalism.