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What Is Interprofessional Education?

In today’s world of specialized care, improving outcomes for patients and students requires collaboration. We must work together with professionals in other disciplines—as well as families and caregivers. Interprofessional practice (IPP) is a framework that makes this collaboration more successful, and interprofessional education (IPE) helps students develop the skills needed to work on these interprofessional teams.

What is IPE?

Both aspiring and practicing audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) must be prepared to collaborate on teams with colleagues from other disciplines and across settings. Interprofessional education (IPE) means that students are learning about, from, and with others from different disciplines. This is a vital part of preparing aspiring audiologists and SLPs to work in any setting.

In this brief interview, Dr. Elena M. Umland, PharmD, co-director of the Jefferson Center for InterProfessional Education (JCIPE) and associate dean for Academic Affairs at Thomas Jefferson University, describes what IPE is, why it is important and how it is unique from how we have historically collaborated with other professions.

In pre-professional programs, IPE curricula teach students why interprofessional collaboration is important and help students understand the skills, strengths, and expertise that each person brings to service delivery. By learning together with students from other disciplines, IPE helps future audiologists and SLPs cultivate an awareness and respect for other professions. It also discourages students from developing prejudices and rivalries with other professions or practicing in clinical silos. By introducing IPP in the classroom, students can prepare for professional practice by working in small interprofessional groups through planned activities in a safe and supported learning environment.

ASHA’s resource, How To: Plan an IPE exercise provides step-by-step guidance on infusing IPE into health professions education curricula and professional development. This recorded presentation (see the slides in PDF) features IPE at Thomas Jefferson University and a case study [PDF] exercise implemented with audiology students.

IPE isn’t limited to college and graduate programs, though. Practicing clinicians working in health care or schools will likely encounter IPE as part of their professional development. In fact, according to the 1,293 practicing audiologists and SLPs who responded to ASHA’s 2019 Interprofessional Practice Survey, more than 70% never received any formal training on IPP. This means that on-the-job training plays a major role in ensuring that audiologists and SLPs have the skills needed to work on interprofessional teams.

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Just like pre-professional programs, IPE helps practicing audiologists and SLPs understand the value and knowledge that their colleagues can share. On the flip side, IPE gives practicing audiologists and SLPs a chance to educate others about the value that they can bring to an IPP team.

For More Information

Read more about advocating for yourself on an IPP team. Also, see the following case studies to understand IPE in action.

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Case Study: Students Receive Valuable IPP Training During a Disaster Simulation Event

To help students learn collaboration skills, university faculty staged an interdisciplinary IPE simulation of a tornado. The experience allowed students to practice collaborating and executing their roles during the exercise.

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Case Study: International Team Gives Caregiver Education in Democratic Republic of the Congo

A team of medical professionals visiting from the United States worked with staff at an outpatient rehabilitation clinic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to model IPP and IPE collaboration. In this case study, the whole team worked together to create an assessment and treatment plan for a 6-year-old boy with a complaint of severely reduced expressive language. They also provided education and strategies to the boy’s mother.

Past ASHA Convention Session on IPE

In 2012, Towson University created the Institute for Well-Being to facilitate IPE for students across the health professions. Students engage in numerous community outreach experiences involving IPE. This session from the 2016 ASHA Convention focuses on the challenges and solutions for making IPE work across multiple departments and majors.

Developed over 3 years at the Touro College School of Health Sciences in conjunction with the master’s program in speech-language pathology, the program utilizes simulated IPE case management, faculty training, and curricular integration. This session was presented at the 2016 ASHA Convention. See the slides [PDF].

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