1. Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN

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Since its inception, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has encouraged new ways of thinking about nursing roles, teamwork, and accountability-among other things-to improve patient care within local communities.1 The health care law, which corresponds to the recommendations of the 2010 Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, offers incentives to educational and health care institutions for providing the infrastructure to bring about what is now called interprofessional education for health care professionals and students.2 According to the World Health Organization, "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."3(p7) An interprofessional health care team maximizes the key strengths of each profession (eg, nursing, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry) to achieve the highest-quality patient care.

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The idea of interprofessional, or interdisciplinary, education is not new. At a 1972 Institute of Medicine conference, participants from the fields of allied health, dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy discussed the idea of having all health profession students work together to create a patient-centered and community-oriented system of health care.4 Traditionally, different health professions have been taught separately, then the practitioners are brought together and expected to work as a team. But the "silo-ization" of education has made it difficult for some team members to communicate successfully with others, and turf wars have sometimes resulted in a failure to share knowledge. Other obstacles have included a lack of role models, since most senior faculty had not been educated to work as part of a team; logistical problems, such as a shortage of space to bring large numbers of multiple professions together; funding for new faculty and the team-based care; and resistance to change, a common roadblock for innovation.5


The ACA, which was written with the input of health professionals, provided an impetus for change by offering grants for pilot programs that seek to build interprofessional, community-based health programs. To oversee the projects, the ACA created a new group within the US Department of Health and Human Services: the Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary, Community-Based Linkages (ACICBL).6


At meetings held in 2012 and 2013, the committee developed 4 recommendations to reach the goal of true interprofessional health care:


1. To establish or strengthen partnerships among academic programs and community-based practices to help community practices become learning laboratories for interprofessional and population-focused education and care.


2. To provide an incentive and recognition system designed to recruit and sustain the involvement of community-based providers as teachers and role models for the provision of interprofessional and population-focused health care.


3. To provide ongoing faculty development and team-based training for campus and community-based teachers who will be leaders in interprofessional and population health education.


4. To advance the education of students for interprofessional practice by enabling, encouraging, and rewarding the active teaching and precepting of students by clinicians from professional disciplines different from their own.6



A number of educational institutions, generally in partnership with health care facilities, have taken the ACICBL recommendations to heart and taken up the challenge to develop interprofessional programs for their students. Although some of them continue to face impediments, their commitment to realizing the goals of the ACA sets a positive example for the rest of us. Their programs are building a strong foundation for the rest of us to build on, leading the way to better, more person-focused, community-based health care.7


As infusion nurses, we recognize the importance of interprofessional practice. Understanding the education of other disciplines-medicine, pharmacy, and other nursing specialties-can only lead to better patient care.


Mary Alexander




1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Pub L No. 111-148, 124 Stat 119. [Context Link]


2. Institute of Medicine. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Published 2010. Accessed August 3, 2015. [Context Link]


3. World Health Organization. Framework for action on interprofessional education and collaborative practice. Published 2010. Accessed August 3, 2015. [Context Link]


4. Institute of Medicine. Educating for the Health Team. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences; 1972. [Context Link]


5. Josiah Macy, Jr Foundation; ABIM Foundation; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [conference proceedings]. Team-based Competencies: building a Shared Foundation for Education and Clinical Practice. Washington, DC: Presented February 16-17; 2011:12. [Context Link]


6. Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary, Community-Based Linkages (ACICBL). Transforming Interprofessional Health Education and Practice: moving Learners from the Campus to the Community to Improve Population Health. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services. Health Resources and Services Administration; 2014. [Context Link]


7. Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel. Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice: report of an Expert Panel. Washington, DC: Interprofessional Education Collaborative; 2011:32-37. [Context Link]