An Interprofessional Collaborative Educational Experience With Nurse Practitioner Students and Community-Based Pharmacists

Thursday, 27 July 2017: 4:50 PM

Judy K. Anderson, PhD
School of Nursing, Viterbo University, LaCrosse, WI, USA


Terms such as interprofessional and collaborative education have become a frequent encounter in nursing education literature. The movement for interdisciplinary / team-based education started with the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) report "Educating the Health Team” (1972). Since that time, numerous organizations, both national and international groups focusing on healthcare, education or a specific profession, have published statements advocating the importance of shared education experiences and collaborative relationships in the practice setting. In 2011, representatives from six diverse health-related professional organizations formed the Interprofessional Education Collaboration identifying recommended competencies for interprofessional education. These competency domains included: (a) values /ethics for interprofessional practice, (b) roles / responsibilities, (c) interprofessional communication, and (d) teams and teamwork. Together, competency in these domains through interprofessional education is thought to improve collaborative practice and ultimately result in the “triple arm” identified by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (2015). These included an (a) improved patient experience, identified both subjectively through satisfaction, and objectively through improved safety; (b) enhanced population health; and (c) improved cost effectiveness and efficiency of the healthcare system.

True interprofessional education (IPE) can be defined as happening when students from two or more disciplines share a learning experience, learning with and about the other (World Health Organization, 2010). However, a challenge exists for smaller or rural schools of nursing that are not affiliated with schools of medicine, pharmacy, or dentistry, where students of two disciplines may be located. Finding opportunities for collaborative education requires creativity and looking outside of the educational institution for these experiences. Writing prescriptions is one aspect of the role of an advanced practice nurse. The collaborative aspect of writing prescriptions also involves a consumer, who will be taking the medication and the pharmacist who will dispense the medication. Nurses in nurse practitioner programs have minimal experience working with pharmacists who fill prescriptions in the community setting. The importance of interprofessional education is well-documented, but there is a paucity of literature detailing experiences of collaborative educational experiences between nurse practitioner students and community-based pharmacists. This study involved one approach to providing a collaborative experience to facilitate development of the interprofessional competencies in a setting individuals from two specific disciplines have the ability to learn about and with each other. The purpose of the study was to identify nurse practitioner student perceptions of an experience focused on a short-term immersion with pharmacists working on “the other side of their prescription.”


After university IRB approval, a convenience sample of second-year students (n = 26) taking a pharmacotherapeutics course co-taught with a hospital-based pharmacist and adult nurse practitioner completed an observation experience with a community-based pharmacist. Observations were completed within a three-state area and lasted three to four hours. Students then completed a reflective journal that served as the basis for a qualitative analysis for themes and patterns. The primary research question was: What are the most important insights gained from the collaborative experience with a pharmacist? A second question asked: How did the experience of working with a pharmacist influence their perspectives about the prescribing role on an advanced practice nurse?


Seeing through new lenses was the overarching theme that emerged from the data. Patterns of: Seeing the: (a) rainbow of roles, (b) dark clouds of challenges, (c) winding road of technology, and (d) gears of collaboration were identified.


Correlation to how this activity paralleled the interprofessional education domains are examined along with recommendations for strengthening interprofessional education and further research. Resources for developing interprofessional curricular activities are offered.