Interprofessional learning. What is it, and why should I get involved?
Interprofessional learning, ‘where professions learn with, from and about each other’ (CAIPE 2002)
No matter where you are headed in your career, inter-professional learning has many benefits. The global workplace is more complex, fast-moving, and uncertain than ever before. Employers seek graduates who can collaborate across different disciplines and organisations. Many graduates will have between five and ten employment changes during their careers, so the ability to maintain, develop, and harness inter-professional skills and networks will be critical in creating opportunities for your future career progression.
Inter-professional working is essential in most jobs, and especially in health and social care, where there are increasingly complex, co-morbid conditions that any single discipline cannot treat. The introduction of inter-professional learning into the training of new health and social care professionals has been linked to improved clinical decision making and standards of practice (Darlow et al., 2015).
During the pandemic, the development of vaccines and digital track and trace systems have provided notable examples of employers seeking people who can collaborate across different disciplines and organisations to bring new insights and discoveries.
Consequently, the World Economic Forum (2020) places interpersonal, critical thinking, active learning and self-management skills at the heart of its Top 10 Skills for 2025. These are some of the very skills that inter-professional education seeks to develop. Moreover, according to employers, they are often the skills that many graduates lack (ISE, 2018).
With it being common for graduates to have several employment changes during their careers, the ability to maintain, develop, and harness inter-professional skills and networks will be crucial in creating career progression opportunities.
Even in subjects like Psychology and Biomedical Science, where graduates may move into a range of employment areas outside of health and social care, most graduates enter the health sector either directly or indirectly.
Beyond providing a competitive edge within a changing global labour market, inter-professional learning promotes general networking skills. A sizeable proportion of graduate roles can be described as part of the ‘hidden’ jobs market. That is to say that they are not widely advertised and may be appointed through networks where successful candidates have a well-established profile. Graduates with active networks are more likely to come across such roles and present a credible offer. This requires a well-developed inter-professional skill set and an ability to identify contacts, foster positive relationships with potential employers and maintain them over time. Developing these skills through inter-professional learning before graduation is therefore particularly valuable.