As already mentioned here in this blog before, a big issue in clinical education in health care, both nationally and internationally, is to promote interprofessional learning (IPL) which means getting students to learn with, about and from each others, across professional affiliations (CAIPE, 2000). This concept might be beneficial to most working sectors/environments, and as it comes to health care it´s crucial since effective interdisciplinary collaboration and communication can literally have life changing consequences for the patient in a health care context.
One obstacle for IPL in traditional clinical education in primary care is the distribution of students from different professions at different clinical health care units, both over time and geographies. Opportunities to gather students from a broad disciplinary spectrum at a specific health care unit at the same time are few. Characteristics of primary health care everyday reality similarly rarely gather many different professions at the exact same place and time. Interprofessional contacts in primary care, in fact, more often have the nature of a relay race. One profession passes on the information and the questions necessary for the other profession(s) to consider. It is a continuous exchange. Difficulties highlighted for IPL activities in primary care are connected with logistics, time and resources.
IPL as a phenomenon goes beyond the simple exchange of information and knowledge. It also comprises a possibility of creation of brand new knowledge and understanding (learning TOGETHER WITH each others) – a unique ”product” or learning outcome, resulting from a unique constellation and a unique situation. Some qualities of such a process are well described by Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes & Garrison (2013), when they discuss benefits from interaction between personal reflection and shared discourse, between independence in reflection and interdependence of group mates in a community of inquiry. Resulting benefits could be critical thinking, rational judgment and understanding, all essential for development of higher-order thinking. Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes & Garrison (a.a.) argue that a team spirit which supplies learners in a group with multiple roles provokes role complexity. The possibility of interaction between collective learning development and individual learning development offered by a blended learning approach as described by Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes & Garrison (a.a.) aligns to great extent with the fundaments of IPL.
What Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes & Garrison (a.a.) establish about the intellectually favorable oscillating movement between individual reflection and collaborative teamwork characteristic of a blended design for online and face-to-face learning, has a parallel structure in the dynamics of primary care interprofessional every day exchange. As quality blended learning owns the potential to extend thinking and discourse over time and space, similar requisites (extension of time and space parameters) are conducting most interprofessional collaboration opportunities in primary care. If interprofessional relay race collaboration is in fact enabling extended thinking and discourse over time and space, these characteristic requisites might not be simply limiting but who knows (under favorable conditions) fructifying? IPL activities with a blended online and face-to.face design would regardless be both logistically smoothly and related to the current conditions of primary care interprofessional everyday life. Loosing up the requirements for synchronous meetings in time and space as it comes to interprofessional learning activities might also bring benefits regarding the diversity of professional representation. It is in fact extremely unusual to have face-to-face encounters with more than two or three professions, both in educational contexts and in real life in primary care. Nevertheless, we do collaborate in the most complex constellations on the same patient case in our every day work. That might be something worth taking advantage of in the creation of IPL solutions for primary care settings.
CAIPE (2000). What is CAIPE? Found 161124 at: https://www.caipe.org/
Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “Conceptual framework”.