With a growing population and a society facing more complex health issues, healthcare professionals have realized that to help their patients, they must do so from a more panoramic lens.
To meet the needs of patients in the 21st century, healthcare professionals are taking a team approach to patient care through interprofessional collaboration. Interprofessional collaboration involves healthcare organizations working with professionals in other fields. As part of this collaboration, professionals learn the language of other professionals and understand industry norms and specializations of different industries. By doing this, these teams help patients and use resources (including funding) more effectively and efficiently.
Interprofessional collaboration becomes complex, especially when dealing with professionals from different fields and educational backgrounds. Because the group of professionals (including nurses) must learn how to navigate the often-tricky social services landscape, these professionals work together while respecting each other’s expertise.
How do nurses work on interdisciplinary teams to help patients?
Nurses who graduate from US college programs will likely find their degree preparation includes working with professionals from other disciplines. The reason for preparing nurses to work with professionals from different fields is because the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a professional organization that advocates for nurses, requires that nursing programs integrate some component of interdisciplinary collaboration among disciplines within the curriculum. This fact also holds for any online accelerated nursing program where students learn entirely or in part virtually but participate in face-to-face clinicals – the University of Indianapolis are particularly renowned for their online programs.
Two examples illustrate the importance of integrating interdisciplinary education into nursing education. The first one involves a community deciding to improve the health of its elementary students. In this scenario, a nurse from a local hospital might work with elementary educators and administrators to develop engaging lessons for imparting knowledge to the students. However, the collaboration continues. This program might span a few weeks and require the nurse to collaborate with the physical education teacher to integrate some of their expertise into the curriculum.
If the program is successful, the nurse and other healthcare professionals might work with community organizations to implement it effectively across the district. During this time, the nurse might work alongside social service workers who oversee youth programs. The nurse will probably work with social workers and law enforcement if the program is in an urban setting.
The second example is a prevalent one in many hospital settings. This time the patient needs the assistance of the healthcare organization, a social worker, and a dietician. The nurse has carried out any doctor’s instructions, but the patient is elderly and unfamiliar with Medicare. Depending on the degree of care, the social worker might also help the patients with rehabilitative services. In this instance, a nurse might enlist the help of a social worker to help the patient receive benefits. If this patient has diabetes or some condition requiring them to adhere to a strict diet, then the nurse might also seek out the expertise of a dietician.
Why is inter-disciplinary collaboration important in nursing?
The primary reason that interdisciplinary collaboration is essential is that more healthcare organizations are moving toward patient-centered care. Patient-centered care focuses on providing patients with the best care by including a team of professionals from within and outside the healthcare community. In this healthcare model, healthcare professionals enlist the whole community to help treat the person, which requires professionals (including nurses) to work with others from other fields. Ultimately, the current healthcare environment mandates that nurses work as a part of a team of professionals from different disciplines in delivering high-quality care to patients.
Healthcare in the next decade will continue to evolve, presenting nurses with chances to explore the expansive landscape. Students or professionals embarking on a new career path will find that, while there are numerous options from which to choose, they will work with professionals from other fields. The patient-centered care model places the nurse on a team with other professionals who strive to improve patient care.
As an individual, the nurse learns from the diverse professional community with which they work and imparts information to other team members. As a team member, the nurse contributes to improving the lives of their patients and the community, and very few other occupations outside of social services offer these intrinsic rewards.