Forming Communities of Practice: Education of Health Professionals in Interprofessional Settings

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Susan E. Sterrett, EdD, MSN, MBA
Nursing, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA

Learning Objective 1: understand the model of an effective interprofessional community of practice.

Learning Objective 2: create an interprofessional community of practice in their learning environment.

This presentation will review a qualitative study which describes and analyzes the perspectives of health profession students, teachers and administrators involved in an interprofessional learning experience at a large university’s health science center.  The study setting is a year long fellowship in developmental disabilities.  Participants represented masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students.  The core faculty represent 12 health professions and students interviewed for the study came from medicine, nursing, social work, education, and dietetics.
The value of interprofessional learning experiences is seen in all health profession’s curricular models and standards.  In the Institute of Medicine’s report, Health Profession Education: A Bridge to Quality (IOM, 2003), one of five primary competencies in a redesigned health profession educational preparation is working in interdisciplinary teams.  Yet developing interprofessional clinical and didactic experiences is difficult.  Different schedules, lack of extra credits and lack of incentives for teachers make the task seem overwhelming.  This study looks at a new vision of interprofessional education, based on social learning theory and the development of interprofessional community. Can students become effective, collaborative team members by becoming members of an interprofessional community in their health science program?  This study takes the first step in answering this question by exploring an interprofessional fellowship, analyzing participant’s perspectives and comparing the themes with Lave and Wenger’s theory of community of practice.  Themes of mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire will be explored, along with unique themes identified in the study.
 The presentation will conclude with the implications of the study for theory and practice.  What are the hallmarks of an effective interprofessional community of practice?  What criteria should guide program development?  Are there strategies for implementation?  Health profession students can become a cohesive community that works passionately together to care for a patient, or to solve health care issues.  This study is the first step in developing a model of an effective interprofessional community of practice.