Within the School of Health and Education, we believe that gaining an understanding of other professionals' roles and skills in a shared learning context can benefit interprofessional team working in practice. Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes (WHO 2010). Although a requirement of pre-registration nursing and midwifery programmes, to date the main opportunities for interprofessional learning (IPL) within these programmes have been within placement.
We are now addressing the challenge of offering IPL within classroom sessions across nursing, midwifery, social work and School staff. In education, interprofessional team working and learning is an important part of our provision, particularly in Initial Teacher Training. The opportunity to engage with aspects of other professions will provide an enhanced experience to all education students and support teacher trainees in meeting the Teachers' Standards at the highest possible level.
Interprofessional work is a key requirement within social work practice in adult social care and in child and family social work. Numerous inquiry reports and good practice guides focus on the importance of sharing knowledge and skills with other professionals with the aim of improving the lives of service users. In adult social care, multi-disciplinary teams provide care drawing on the full range of professional expertise from health, social work and education. Similarly in child and family social work there is close interprofessional working with schools, early years and health. Interprofessional learning as part of studying to be a professional helps students to build awareness of other professionals' roles and responsibilities and gives a valued opportunity for shared learning and finding a common language. This is then continued in post-qualifying professional practice.
Within nursing and midwifery our commitment to address IPL has been strengthened in particular by high profile cases that have highlighted fundamental weaknesses in the ways different professions work together, to detrimental effects; this includes events at Mid Staffs, between 2005 and 2008. To this end, over the last two years we have developed a way to ensure our programmes were allowing our students to learn about other professions, and learn with other professions, reflecting the key literature on IPL such as WHO, 2010. This has involved the identification of topic areas, of relevance to a number of professionals working in healthcare, such as nurses, midwives and social workers.
Staff from two departments within Health and Education have then organised a series of symposia over the academic year, each involving a key speaker and a range of opportunities for participants to explore issues raised by the key speaker, in smaller interprofessional groups. Student participants have been allocated to one session from the final year cohorts of our BSc Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work programmes, and our PgDip Nursing and MA Social Work programmes. Planning has been complex, taking into account the numbers of students and differing timetables. Feedback from students has been extremely positive, but the reality is that if this approach were continued, all students would realistically get the opportunity to attend just one IPL session during their programme.
In a contract assurance meeting held in December 2014 between Middlesex University and our commissioners, Health Education North Central and East London Local Education and Training Board (HENCEL LETB), we were asked to consider what else there was, what else there could be and how, within the realistic aspirations, equity could be offered for students on different placements and from different professions to learn together. This happened at a similar time as the School of Health and Education was considering how it might develop greater interdisciplinary collaboration and learning, at student and staff level, across health and education professions. The proposal below reflects one output from these discussions, and is focussed on building on our current approaches to IPL within nursing and midwifery.
More recently, the Department for Education published advice for school staff on mental health and behaviour in schools (March 2015) as school staff find this a difficult area and want to share approaches to supporting children at risk of developing mental health problems, so they can be clearer on their own and others' responsibilities. The School of Health and Education believes it is time for health and education professionals to engage in IPL to further understanding of each others' professions, facilitate the development of necessary skills to operate effectively in multidisciplinary teams, and open up opportunities for interprofessional collaboration and research.
The format of our Interprofessional Symposia changed to a Pilot Project: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Interprofessional Learning from September 2015. The key changes include: