1. Kaufman, Robert R. PharmD

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The opioid crisis has been referred to as an epidemic because it is a huge widespread issue with serious impact to all. It is hard to envision the epidemic as a whole because it has so many moving parts including the misuse of prescription meds, illicit drug use, public awareness of the problem, treatment access, recognizing those with abuse problems, and getting help for them. Although each profession in healthcare may have differing opinions, one thing we should all be able to agree on is that addressing this epidemic will require the attention of everyone to address the incredible need that is arising.

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Many healthcare educators have escalated their efforts to educate current and future healthcare workers with respect to the opioid crisis to meet their disciplines' changing educational requirements. These efforts still largely exist in silos, some for legitimate reasons, because of both differing requirements based on profession and the natural physical separation of the disciplines on most educational campuses. However, interprofessional collaboration has been identified as an essential component in the treatment of opioid use disorders (Monteiro et al., 2017). So it follows that we need to adopt our educational efforts to be more interprofessional. Many barriers exist to interprofessional education including the physical walls between the professions in our institutions that inhibit the logistics of the timing to educate interprofessionally, while simultaneously attempting to maintain adherence to very different accredited curriculums. The crisis, however, does not care or recognize these barriers; it just keeps growing. There has been TV, radio, and social media campaigns to increase awareness of the opioid crisis and treatment with naloxone for opioid overdose. This is without a doubt an important step to raise public awareness of the issues and treatments available and will certainly help to get people asking questions and seeking help. There have also been great educational strides with screening, intervention, and referral to treatment and medication-assisted treatment to address these needs. Large organizations, such as the Institute of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pain Management Society, recommend a multimodal approach, and to do this, it requires collaborative practice (Brooks, Holm, Thomas, & Rich, 2017) and therefore collaborative education and training including those outside the prescribing professions. Although it will take time for our major institutions to change to provide this type of training to our future healthcare practitioners, the growing need is mandating change. The Interprofessional Education Collaborative has pushed for change in our academic institutions. Responses to this push have varied widely, and the outcome measurement competencies have not been established (Brooks et al., 2017).


In the meantime, we can look to bridge the gap with interprofessional education through communication workshops with interprofessional panels targeting both healthcare professionals and students (Brooks et al., 2017). Interprofessional communication and education with a mixed audience is easier said than done because of the fact that each profession has not been trained or taught in the same way. Although all healthcare professions work together, we have only learned to communicate from those of our same profession through our learning. There are nuances to all the professions, which morph into perceived differences and lead to communication avoidance. This avoidance has been recognized as a barrier to the interprofessional multimodal approach. To address this barrier, we need to be the leaders in the interprofessional model of workshops and work to change these perceived differences to the realization that, together, we can and will improve outcomes. These models of interprofessional panels and audiences have shown they can engage both students and healthcare professionals, improve learning, and increase communication (Brooks et al., 2017). As we all move forward to address the daunting opioid crisis, we have to realize the enormity of the task at hand and that it will take all of us learning, teaching, and working together to face it.




Brooks M., Holm S., Thomas S., Rich A. (2017). Addressing opioid misuse and abuse through interprofessional engagement and education. Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 16, Article 9. [Context Link]


Monteiro K., Dumenco L., Collins S., Bratberg J., MacDonnell C., Jacobson A., George P. (2017). An interprofessional education workshop to develop health professional student opioid misuse knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Journal of the American Pharmacist Association, 57(2S), S113-S117. [Context Link]