Inter-professional collaboration occurs when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work together with patients, families, caregivers, and communities to deliver the highest quality of care.
- Improved communication, coordination and partnerships between health providers, patients and their families and less risk for patients to ‘fall through the cracks’
- Better care for patients with complex and/or chronic conditions because joint expertise can address the broader factors that influence health (i.e. social determinants of health) in the care plan
- Better patient experience and higher satisfactions with their care
- Supportive health care practice through meaningful contact with other health professionals
- Improved access to services and more effective use of health resources
While the benefits of collaboration to patients are clear, effective collaboration is not always easy to achieve. First, it requires trust and respect between providers and the sense that each member is valued. Traditional hierarchies in the health care system can sometimes get in the way of sharing decisions for care. Not understanding each other’s scope of practice can lead to efforts to protect professional ‘turf’. The work environment might not always facilitate collaboration.
Health professionals need to learn and practice special competencies to become good collaborators.
Competencies are the knowledge, skills and abilities health care provider need for better patient outcomes.
In many medical and health sciences programs, students from different programs now have opportunities to learn together during their training. They may also have the option of doing clinical placements with students from other health sciences programs. These experiences help students to understand the roles of other health providers and practice collaboration.
The University of Alberta has created an Inter-professional Learning Pathway that link a series of courses and practice experiences into a comprehensive collaboration curriculum.
Through RhPAP’s Let’s Go Rural program, high school and graduate students can team up to get early exposure to rural health care practice. Feedback from participants suggest that these collaborative events are great opportunities to learn with others about rural practice. They may also spark an interest in rural practice.
It is also important that current health practitioners refine their collaborative practice skills. RhPAP offers several programs for rural health care teams to train together, such as the Emergency Department Echo (EDE) program, Financial Incentive for Rural Staff Training (FIRST).
Inter-professional collaboration is a way to achieve better patient care while at the same time having a happier and more effective workforce.