Designing effective interprofessional education (IPE)—whether in an academic setting or through professional development activities—requires thoughtful planning and collaboration. Organizers need not only establish learning outcomes and develop curriculum but also find collaborators to work through logistics, such as scheduling and funding. A well-designed IPE exercise is a key way in which students and professionals develop the skills to work on interprofessional teams.
This resource will guide you through the steps of creating a new IPE exercise.
The easiest place to find collaborators is within your own organization. Look across your institution or clinic, and connect with like-minded colleagues who share your interest and motivation to offer IPE. This can be as simple as reaching out to colleagues based on their job titles or raising the topic during staff meetings (see additional recommendations in 12 Tips for Developing Inter-Professional Education in Healthcare). Even if the person you contacted cannot help, they may be able to refer you to someone who can.
Focus on finding one or two collaborators at first. More is not necessarily better. In fact, students report less satisfaction when an IPE exercise involves professionals with whom they would not normally collaborate in real life. Look for collaborations that mirror real-life situations, such as the following:
Discuss mutual needs, interests, and goals with potential collaborators. Creating an IPE exercise requires ongoing collaboration with your partner(s). It’s important to have an initial discussion to ensure that you are on the same page and to plan next steps. Get started by asking the following questions:
Connect with potential collaborators outside your organization.
If you need to look outside your organization to find a collaborator, the organizations below provide opportunities to connect with subject-matter experts to exchange IPE ideas or experiences. Most of these organizations also offer IPE-focused conferences and disseminate the latest IPE research in peer-reviewed journals.
With your goal in mind, the next step is learning more about what your learners need to accomplish that goal. You might want to do some learner interviewing or surveying. What additional skills do your learners say they need? If available, combine those results with relevant data from other sources such as electronic medical records, outcome measures.
Designing an IPE exercise starts with defining your learning outcomes. These will depend on your IPE exercise and the audience’s learning needs. Select up to three IPEC Core Competencies [PDF] across the four categories listed below.
Values/Ethics for Professional Practice: Work with individuals of other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values.
Interprofessional Communication: Communicate with patients, families, communities, and professionals in health care and other fields in a responsive, responsible manner.
Roles/Responsibilities: Use the knowledge of one’s own role and those of other professions to appropriately assess and address the health care and educational needs.
Teams and Teamwork: Perform effectively in different team roles to plan, deliver, and evaluate patient/population-centered care, population health programs, and policies that are safe, efficient, and equitable.
In an academic setting, you may choose to focus on a skill that isn’t well addressed in the standard curriculum—for example, the authors of 12 Tips for Developing Inter-Professional Education in Healthcare found that patient handoffs were not well taught in medical education. To address this gap, they created a handoff workshop for undergraduate students from several health care professions.
The next step is to plan the activities that will help your students achieve the learning outcomes. IPE can include a mix of coursework, simulations, clinical learning environments, and outreach to the communities of those in need.
Make sure that whatever you design is truly IPE, not simply “shared learning.” IPE is not different professions taking a class or workshop together. It is different professions collaborating and learning “about, from, and with” each other. Learning in this way supports the development of trust and teamwork—and reduces any chances of miscommunication across teams.
Make IPE authentic by pulling from real-life experiences.
For IPE to be meaningful and relevant, it must be authentic. The best way to accomplish this is to pull from real-life experience. Instructors often use case studies to teach clinical skills—and this goes for IPE, too. For example, this case study featuring a 60-year-old man with hearing loss [PDF] was transformed into an IPE activity by adding a lesson and discussion questions. In another example, this case study examines how a university’s health care-related programs developed an IPE experience that re-created a disaster simulation. Students role-played “victims” and “responders” after a tornado. This exercise helped students learn about collaboration and health care services. For more real-life cases that can inspire IPE activities, check out ASHA’s IPE/IPP case studies.
Need more help? The University of Toronto Center for Interprofessional Education offers IPE tools and resources, the Interprofessional Professionalism Collaborative (IPC) offers an Interprofessional Professionalism Assessment (IPA) Tool Kit with case scenarios, and the Center for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education (CAIPE) offers an interprofessional education handbook for educators and practitioners.
You planned the learning outcomes and curriculum. Now it’s time to figure out how to make your IPE exercise a reality. This step involves tackling logistical issues like scheduling and funding.
An IPE program can range from a 1-day exercise to a formally structured program with a well-defined administrative and operational structure. According to a survey by the AIHC and the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, many universities are moving toward IPE programs with a dedicated staff, budget, and plan.
Tips for starting an IPE program from scratch.
However, if you are starting from scratch, be sure to set achievable goals. For example, if you are leading the push for IPE at your workplace or academic institution, start with a plan that has low expenses and uses limited resources. Even if your university or workplace is initiating the drive for IPE, a one-off event can be a good starting place. For example, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) now has a state-of-the-art IPE program complete with a $120 million educational technology and simulation facility. But its IPE program started in 2008 with a one-off IPE panel discussion. To learn more about how UNMC grew their IPE program, read this case study [PDF] from UNMC. Also, consider making your IPE exercises optional—at least at first. For example, start by advising stakeholders to read 12 Tips for Developing Inter-Professional Education (IPE) in Healthcare. This can make scheduling easier and keep the group to a more manageable size. It will also ensure that you have willing participants who are eager to learn.
How to schedule a successful IPE exercise.
When scheduling your IPE exercise, keep a few points in mind.
The goal of any IPE exercise is for participants to gain the knowledge and skills they need to collaborate on interprofessional teams. When designing a new course, workshop, or exercise, it’s vital to know whether it helped accomplish that goal—and get feedback for how you can improve in the future. This is where an evaluation plan comes in.
Assessment begins with a plan for what needs to be evaluated, how, and why. Even a simple IPE exercise should have a written plan. At the most basic level, this plan will define your evaluation questions and lay out how you will collect and analyze your data.
As part of advancing IPE, consider sharing your IPE implementation experience and outcomes with peers and faculty from other professions. Sharing your successes and challenges helps you and others in the field. Consider presenting your results at the many IPE/IPP-focused conferences or publishing your work in an IPE/IPP-focused publication. See our research page for a list of journals that publish IPE/IPP research.