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Principles of interprofessional learning

In 2001, CAIPE identified seven principles ‘to guide the provision and commissioning of interprofessional education (IPE) and to assist in its development and evaluation’.

CAIPE’s vision is that when IPE works well, it:

  • improves the quality of care
  • focuses on the needs of service users and carers
  • involves service users and carers
  • encourages professions to learn with, from and about each other
  • respects the integrity and contribution of each profession
  • enhances practice within professions
  • increases professional satisfaction.

The principles ‘draw on the IPE literature, evidence base and the experience of CAIPE members, underpinned by values common to all healthcare professionals including a commitment to equal opportunities and positive regard for difference, diversity and individuality’ (CAIPE, 2006).

Let us consider this in a little more depth.

  • Improves the quality of care
    Interprofessional learning (IPL) underpins the reality of the complexity of healthcare. Single professions or individual professionals working in isolation do not have ‘the expertise to respond adequately and effectively to the complexity of many service user’s needs… to ensure that care is safe, seamless and holistic’ and of a high standard.
  • Focuses on the needs of service users and carers
    IPL puts the needs and ‘interests of service users and carers at the centre of learning and practice’.
  • Involves service users and carers
    Through active participation and involvement in ‘planning, delivering, assessing and evaluating’ IPL, service users and carers help ‘to ensure that services meet the needs for whom they are designed’.
  • Encourages professions to learn with, from and about each other
    This is one of the core distinguishing features of IPL.
  • Respects the integrity and contribution of each profession
    Participants in IPL are seen as equal learners, even though there may be differentials in power, position or status in the workplace.
  • Enhances practice within professions
    ‘Each profession gains a deeper understanding of its own practice and how it can complement and reinforce that of others. This is endorsed when the IPE carries credit towards professional awards and counts towards career progression’.
  • Increases professional satisfaction
    This is achieved primarily through mutual support and guidance, discussion about roles and responsibilities, and collaborative practice.

(Quotes above are from CAIPE, 2006.)

One of the issues about the difference between IPL and multiprofessional education, is that effective IPL overcomes some of the potential for resentment that shared learning might engender in its participants. Multiprofessional learning should not always be seen as a sub-set or step towards IPL, particularly when the learning involves students from diverse professional groups.

There are many examples of common learning or shared learning as well as programmes or learning interventions aimed more specifically at enshrining the IPL principles described above. Many of these are at pre-registration level, particularly in the early or foundation years where much of the basic science or communications skills learning might be shared learning. Sometimes this is with the specific aim of encouraging students to work together and learn about one another’s practice, but often it is to provide students with a common foundation or baseline level of learning so as to provide them with a range of options at the next stage of learning. 

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