Health Professionals Unite for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice

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Health professionals say interprofessional
education and collaborative practice are the future.

A new declaration was recently pronounced by health professionals and experts aimed at reaching health equity in South Africa by advocating interprofessional education and collaborative practice (IPECP).

The declaration was announced at a UKZN symposium organised by the School of Health Sciences under the leadership of the Dean, Professor Sabiha Essack, and Ms Dain van der Reyden and Professor Kitty Uys, uniting a body of about 200 professionals from health disciplines across the country.

The delegates felt interprofessional collaboration would provide a more ‘patient-centred approach’ to healthcare in line with addressing prevalent 21st century challenges.

Together with a panel of local and national experts, they agreed that IPECP would improve the quality of care for all South Africans if health professionals stopped working in silos and united towards common purpose – holistic care for patients.

The Symposium resulted in the formation of a new IPECP community of practice which will advocate for the inclusion of interprofessional collaborative practice into scopes of practice and exit level outcomes by all professional councils.

They agreed to advocate for the integration of interprofessional education in health professional curricula at universities; cultivate IPECP competencies among faculty, preceptors and service providers; identify best practice IPECP models and share resources to adapt such models to the South African context as well as to participate in international networks, such as the World Health Organization, informing best practice models.

This community of practice would also utilise network platforms such as the South African Association of Health Educationalists, Academy of Science for South Africa, and the South African Committee of Health Sciences Deans to create an awareness of IPECP; mobilise relevant stakeholders in health, social and educational sectors; as well as conduct collaborative research to inform IPECP in Africa

The Symposium commenced with an address from the President of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), Professor Mochichi Mokgokong, who supported IPECP and reminded delegates that in conjunction with its 12 Professional Boards, the HPCSA was committed to promoting the health of the population, determining standards of professional education and training, and setting and maintaining excellent standards of ethical and professional practice.

Professor Stefanus Snyman of the Interprofessional Education and Practice and Service-learning at the Centre for Health Professions Education at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, gave the keynote address highlighting how an IPECP strategy could result in social accountability, transformative learning and interdependence in education.  He spoke about the three pillars of core competencies, a common approach using the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF) framework and education-health harmonisation in addition to challenges and solutions on IPECP implementation. 

A moving trilogy of case presentations featuring patients who needed specialised interprofessional healthcare sparked debates on ways in which IPECP could improve the country’s health system, in both the public and private sectors.

The deliberations indicated that health professionals were not entirely familiar with each other’s scopes of practice. While advocating for their own professions, they also needed to be aware of limitations in their scopes of practice and be able to refer particular cases of patients to the specific health professionals who had the ability to intervene timeously.

Improving the quality of care, respect and understanding for each other’s professions was deemed a priority for all.

It is envisaged that the Community of Practice would be formalised in 2015 and seek affiliation to Higher Education South Africa after which a national conference would be considered to share best practice