Healthcare is provided by a large number of different health and social care professionals and no one healthcare profession can provide comprehensive care to meet the patient’s needs (Lumague et al., 2006). Research has shown the benefits of the different health care professionals working together collaboratively. These benefits include: strengthening health care systems, improving the quality of delivered patient care, reducing the cost of care, shortening patients’ duration of hospital stay and improving health outcomes (Buring et al., 2009; WHO Organization, 2010). It is true that the concept of the multidisciplinary team working already exists but cooperating together is different from collaborating together, which is the cornerstone in collaborative practice. Collaborating involves interacting with other healthcare professionals, resolving problems and making decisions together. However, for collaborative practice to be effective and well implemented, interprofessional education should be rooted in the undergraduate curriculum so that the future health workforces are ‘collaborative practice ready’. Therefore, in these days it is not sufficient for health workers to only be professional, they are also required to be interprofessional (WHO Organization, 2010).
Interprofessional Education Definition
The UK based Center for Advancement in Interprofessional Education (IPE) has defined interprofessional education to occur when two or more professions learn with, from and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care (CAIPE, 2002). Therefore, any planned IPE learning opportunity needs to incorporate these meanings to enable the student to acquire the knowledge, the skills and the professional attitudes while learning so they are able to translate this into actions once they start practicing in the real environment and be able to provide effective patient care in a collaborative team setting.
Qatar is quite unique in that it currently accommodates campuses of some of the leading universities in North America including: Cornell University (based in the United States), the University of Calgary School of Nursing (based in Canada), Health Sciences at the College of North Atlantic (based in Canada) offering dental assistant, emergency medical science, environmental health, medical radiography technology, pharmacy technician and respiratory therapy and College of Pharmacy in Qatar University (the only college outside of Canada to have full accreditation by Canadian Council on Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP)). In addition to the two programs at Qatar University College of Arts and Science: Health Science Program (offering biomedical science, public health and human nutrition) and Sports Science Program. Finally, the new College of Medicine in Qatar University which admitted its first cohort of students in fall 2015.
One of the first initiatives that introduced IPE in Qatar was the establishment of the interprofessional Health Council (QIHC) in June 2009 the main focus of which was to lead the incorporation of interprofessional collaboration in both healthcare education and practice settings. The council included representatives from the above healthcare schools in addition to representatives from Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medical and Research Center (Johnson et al., 2011). Continuing on, the College of Pharmacy in Qatar University has worked hard with several groups to implement interprofessional education across all healthcare degree programs in Qatar. The college is currently leading IPE in the country and formed the Interprofessional Education Committee (IPEC) early in 2014 to provide guidance and support in implementing interprofessional education within the pharmacy curriculum at the College of Pharmacy in Qatar University and other healthcare programs in Qatar. The committee is dedicated to facilitating awareness and understanding of interprofessional education and interprofessional collaboration for students and faculty members. The committee includes members from all the healthcare colleges in Qatar. Formal IPE initiatives are coordinated and organized by the College of Pharmacy in Qatar University with representation from each of the healthcare colleges in Qatar. Further information about our different activities targeting different professional years can be accessed at the following link:
Since the beginning, students have responded very positively to the inclusion of IPE activities in the curriculum. With direction from the IPE committee, they have even taken the initiative to establish Qatar’s first IPE Student Society with representatives from all the major schools and programs across Qatar and held their first event on October 17th 2015 which was the Interprofessional Education Student Society Research day. Further information about the student society can be accessed at the following link:
Qatar is committed to establishing a comprehensive world-class healthcare system, as set out in the Qatar National Vision 2030, through the development of a skilled national healthcare workforce to ensure delivery of safe high-quality care. Therefore, faculty development is another important pillar that we are focusing on in the IPE committee. It is worth noting that many healthcare academics come from different educational background and many of them will have little or no experience of IPE and some may lack examples of collaborative practice (Curran et al., 2005; V. R. Curran et al., 2007; Hall & Zierler, 2015). Therefore, it is important to recognize that preparing faculty members who are able to learn with, from and about each other is a key cornerstone for success in developing and implementing IPE otherwise the initiative will be hampered significantly (Ratka, 2013). Faculty need to be role models to their learners who will need to learn together with an interprofessional collaborative spirit. An example of a faculty development initiative hosted by the College of Pharmacy is the First Interprofessional Education Symposium back in February 2015 which was facilitated by two IPE experts from the Robert Gordon University in the UK. The symposium was designed to introduce healthcare faculty in Qatar to interprofessional education and to equip them with the knowledge and skills to incorporate IPE into their curriculum. Additionally, the college recently hosted the first Middle Eastern Conference on Interprofessional Education in December 2015. This conference was a unique initiative that marked a new chapter for healthcare education in the Middle East and North Africa region. Over 300 healthcare academics, clinical practitioners and health management leaders from 13 different countries attended the conference. Throughout the 3-day conference, participants had the chance to participate in six different workshops that gave practical tools for developing IPE facilitators, using simulation-based curricula, enhancing interactive dialogue and feedback, developing competency frameworks for the development of IPE curricula and providing participants with a toolkit on how to integrate IPE into the curricula. Additionally, 37 oral presentations and 40 posters were presented during the Conference, representing the top submissions that were received.
PE research exploring and investigating IPE in Qatar has started emerging in the last couple of years and will continue with the advancement of IPE in Qatar and in the region. Examples of publications and presentation can be viewed at the following link:
Interprofessional education should not be optional but a requirement in all healthcare curricula. Students are agents for change and by integrating IPE into their curricula and providing them with opportunities to learn with, from and about each other we are preparing them for effective collaborative practice to provide high quality and safe patient care.
Written for February 2016 by
Alla El-Awaisi, MPharm, MRPharmS, MSc
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Chair of the Interprofessional Education Committee
College of Pharmacy