Interprofessional Collaboration in Practice

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SECTION 1
In this section, I shall discuss what I have learnt from the online group working that we did. For this module, we were split into groups and worked in teams, using an online forum as a discussion and exchange board, which raised some issues about being able to properly collaborate with equality, as originally it was planned we would meet in person. We were students from different disciplines; nursing and allied health professions, and by coming together to build on our knowledge of interprofessional collaboration, we were engaging in what Vanclay (1998) called ‘interprofessional education’; namely learning from, with and about each other as professionals. We introduced ourselves to each other through our online group, and gave a brief outline of our professional roles. On reflection, in future I would choose to spend more time on introducing ourselves to each other, and would consider using some pairing off activities to go into more depth about our roles with each other. I feel it would have helped us become familiar with each other before starting to work together, which could have broken down barriers to our communicating together. Douglas (2009 pg 68) illustrates this point by saying that, “One major factor in successful partnerships is the degree of ease felt by professionals who work alongside each other.” As individuals, we were required to produce 6 sentences (2 each on 3 themes); (i) communication issues between health and social care professionals, (ii) contrasting professional perspectives/ values within teams and (iii) stereotyping, power imbalances and team processes. As a group, we had to pick the best 6 of those. Because we had no leader or co-ordinator, once we had all submitted our sentences to the forum, we recognised that the fairest way to choose the final sentences would be by voting. Hornby and Atkins (2006) emphasize that, unless an individual is leading the team, the viewpoints of all of the members of the group are equally valid. Before we began our online collaborating, I researched current literature for information about effective collaboration in interprofessional working, to make myself more aware of the benefits and potential pitfalls of working in this way. Our group worked well at recognising the importance of the individual’s opinions by promoting non judgmental attitudes, and we worked equally to get the group work produced. However, I felt that as an interprofessional group, by putting too much emphasis on non judgmental attitudes, we were at risk of not being critical enough of each other when needed. In practice, this could lead to people not communicating openly and honestly, because of being unwilling to change the group dynamic or for fear of being perceived as ‘difficult’. Meads et al (2005) state that the most agreeable of collaborations are not necessarily the most effective because they may avoid issues perceived as intricate or demanding. The task of producing the sentences online was a positive experience both individually and for us a group, because we were faced with challenges surrounding communication and the equal division of power. The issues that were raised regarding our not meeting in person were dispelled, for me at least, by Willumsen and Breivik (2003) who remarked (on the subject of students being physically co-ordinated into a room with one another for IP conference) that it was not necessarily enough to gain any real “interprofessional benefits.” And by Martin and Rogers (2004), who put forward the idea that not only can interprofessional teams work sometimes without all members, the members do not have to be in the same physical place as each other. This led me to conclude that the potential benefits of IP are more directly influenced by the attitudes of the professionals involved, something backed up by Meads et al (2005) who suggest that parity among members of the healthcare team demands individual input by way of “participation...
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