This was a question posed to me during my doctoral defense. How do we encourage interprofessional collaboration in students?
I firmly believe that educating students on the value of other disciplines and the power of interprofessional collaboration is integral for the development of all our professions in the future. By catching them at an earlier stage in their professional development, they will be more open to the ideas and perhaps more willing to work together in the future.
There is a lot of research on this topic in healthcare education. It is a popular buzzword nowadays. While I was studying for my Master’s in Occupational Therapy, our school focused on collaboration with other health professionals. I have heard that since then, the healthcare collaboration program continues to exist, but now, there is a special lab in our environmental modifications course that involves industrial design students. Another university in Philadelphia has projects with OT and architecture students. Really, the combination of professionals is limited only by our imaginations.
In the end, the research shows that projects that have a common end goal and allows for students to have a shared interest will create collaborative relationships. It is important to note that each person involved needs to have the same level of interest in the project. I saw this in my program; contributions to the project were graded in the OT program, but the medical students had no such incentive. As a result, many groups had difficulty getting the same level of commitment out of the medical students when compared to the other students who were being graded.
To support development in the education arena, I have added a new page to the website for educators and students where I will post citations to articles on various projects going across the country and ideas on how to create a similar program for yourselves.
In healthcare, interprofessional education has been a hot topic of late. In fact, most of my research on interprofessional collaboration lead back to the multitude of interprofessional education studies that exist in the literature. During my defense of my doctorate thesis/ this project, it was also something that arose in the question portion of my presentation.
When I was a student at Thomas Jefferson University learning to be an OT, I was part of the beginning years of our interprofessional education program. However, it focused on partnerships with the medical, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and family counseling students. Our only exposure to the world of home design was through a few lectures in our environmental modifications course. Current students at Jefferson do get the chance to work with industrial design students on assistive technology projects. Students at Philadelphia University complete projects with the architectural design students. These opportunities are invaluable. Exposure to other professions and a true working knowledge of their skill sets at such an early point in their careers will only enhance the collaborative process later on.
It leads me to wonder…. What opportunities were provided to you as students (or professionals) to work with people of other professions on projects as part of an interprofessional education type program? What do you know of students doing in your own professions? And finally, what did you learn of others during your time in school?