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Research: Fall 2007

Interprofessional education (IPE) refers to occasions when two or more professions learn from and about each other to improve collaboration in health and social care.

September 16, 2009  By Kevin D. Willison

Interprofessional education (IPE) refers to occasions when two or more professions learn from and about each other to improve collaboration in health and social care. The thinking here is, “no person acting alone is as effective as a team to drive best practices and outcomes.” 1

The growth of IPE has been prompted by such developments as the formation of primary care teams and a recent increased recognition of its potential by college, university and hospital administrators.

While it could be debated what IPE’s primary modus operandi is, this researcher/author considers it to be two-fold. First, IPE better enables a holistic approach in care provision. And second, IPE maximizes available (human) resources.

Typically, clients/patients needing rehabilitation focused health services, such as in the use of massage, often have health problems that are complex and require varied professional inputs as to possible cause and/or treatment options. Generally, the importance of IPE is such that, when properly carried out, the potential for improved quality of care increases, as does client/patient satisfaction.


The Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) support the above claims and go further to say that a health care system that supports effective teamwork can improve the quality of care through enhanced patient safety and reduction of workload issues causing burnout.2

Teams are less prone to making mistakes than individuals, especially when team members are well aware of their own and their team members’ role and responsibilities.3

IPE enables health care professionals to broaden their perspectives beyond their own specialist area and to learn to draw on the approaches and expertise of other disciplines as necessary.4 Yet, we often work in a less than favorable IPE environment. Why? A key reason is that students in all health professions are usually educated in environments with limited interaction with students from other disciplines. They learn as mono-professionals, in silos whereby disciplines are usually isolated from one another. Yet, when students graduate they are expected to work as an effective member of a health care team. Needed is an increased IPE emphasis within the curricula. This would include both didactic content to be presented in the classroom and practice oriented content to be experienced in the practice/clinical setting.5

Ongoing IPE training could also transpire through use of workshops, conferences, seminars and other professional development initiatives.      

Team working, integration and workplace flexibility can only be achieved when there is widespread recognition and respect for the specialist base of each profession.4

Hewstone and Brown6 go further to state success for IPE will be realized when there is: institutional support; an equal status amongst participants; positive expectations;a co-operative atmosphere;successful joint learning; and, concern for and understanding of differences as well as similarities.

Developing and supporting an IPE approach ought not to be viewed as another burden to tackle by those within the massage therapy profession, nor by others. Rather such may be viewed as a means to ongoing and dynamic end – to continually find ways to improve upon the provision of client-centred care. Towards this goal there will always be a need for life-long learning and professional development. Indeed, not only is there much to learn concerning one’s own profession, but from other professions as well.

Cited References
1. Montague T. Patient-provider partnerships in health care: Enhancing knowledge translation and improving outcomes. Healthcare Papers 2006; 7(2):56-61.
2. CHSRF Links 2007: 10 (1), Spring. Myth Busters section.
3. Salas E, Cannon-Bowers JA. The science of training: a decade of progress. Annual Review of Psychology 2000; 52: 471.
4. Barr H. Interprofessional Education. Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow. (2002).
5. NICE News (Newsletter). National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly. January 2007: 2(1):2. Institute of Life Course & Aging, University of Toronto.
6. Hewstone M, Brown RJ. Contact is not enough: an intergroup perspective on the ‘contact hypothesis.’ In M. Hewstone and R.J. Brown (Eds.) Contact and Conflict in Intergroup Encounters. Oxford: Blackwell. 1986. 

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