Importance of interprofessional teamwork


Importance of interprofessional teamwork

by Clement M. Haeck and Amelia McLeod


Interprofessional teamwork can be seen in various places of practice including hospitals, non-for-profit health organisations as well as disability and rehabilitation services.


Meet Sarah, a 22 year-old pharmacy student. One day on her way home from a lecture, she was in a serious car accident. The first health professionals she encountered were the paramedics who arrived on the scene of the accident and took her, unconscious, to hospital. They will be far from the last professionals she encounters. During her first day in hospital she encounters nurses, various doctors including a surgeon and an anaesthetist, and pharmacists, all before she even regains consciousness. Thankfully for Sarah, whilst her injuries include a concussion and broken bones requiring her to spend a few weeks in hospital, all of her injuries should heal completely. As she moves from critical care to rehabilitation you can see the work of her interprofessional team really coming to light. Her injuries mean that she is having trouble swallowing so a referral to a speech pathologist is made and she is put on thickened foods. This then results in collaboration with a dietitian to ensure that she is getting the right nutrients and a pharmacist to help with finding alternate routes of giving medication other than swallowing tablets. Sarah’s doctors refer her to a psychologist and counsellor as she appears to be experiencing post-traumatic stress and flashbacks. Feedback from these mental health professionals will help with her treatment and medication management. She also sees physiotherapists and occupational therapists working to try to get her physically moving again and performing everyday tasks. Each of the professionals have their own role in her recovery but they must continually communicate with one another about her progress and struggles. Whilst this kind of treatment is something that has come to be seen as the norm in some countries, interprofessional collaboration has a long way to go, especially outside of the hospital setting.


  • Interprofessional teamwork in Global Health:


IPSF strongly advocates for interprofessional teamwork. IPSF has been collaborating with other healthcare profession student associations using a multidisciplinary approach called the “One Health” movement [1].

IPSF regularly delivers joint statements at the WHO Executive Board Meetings (EBMs) and World Health Assemblies (WHAs) advocating for pharmacy students and recent graduates as well as other healthcare students.

For instance, IPSF has been collaborating on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and the International Veterinary Students’ Association (IVSA) since 2014 with the production of joint projects and campaigns [2,3]. IPSF, IFMSA and IVSA released a joint statement on the One Health approach in 2016 [4,5]. Over the last few years, IPSF has presented several statements at WHO EBMs and WHAs, stressing the importance of improving awareness and understanding of AMR, especially through the education of future healthcare professionals [6,7].


IPSF values the importance of interprofessional collaboration and is committed to developing these relationships further. By advocating and combining the efforts of multiple organisations to raise awareness about AMR, pharmacy students along with other health profession students can contribute to the One Health concept and help prevent and control AMR. IPSF presented a poster on this topic at the first AMR:ABC (Antimicrobial Resistance Conference: Advocating a Behaviour Change) conference in London, UK, on the 18th November 2017 [8].

AMR has been chosen as the top priority for 2018 by the World Health Students’ Alliance (WHSA). This alliance includes the International Association of Dental Students (IADS), IFMSA, IVSA and IPSF. It is one of the largest interprofessional healthcare alliances comprising of over 1.8 million health students in over 100 countries worldwide. WHSA released in December 2017 a press release to explain more about why AMR was chosen and what the implications are if this urgent issue is not acted on quickly [9].


  • Interprofessional teamwork in Education and Practice:


Following the WHO framework for action on interprofessional education and collaborative practice, IPSF, along with other healthcare student federations, have delivered statements on the Global Health Workforce for many years. For example, at the 66th WHA in 2013, IPSF delivered a statement with IFMSA and IVSA emphasizing the need for more interprofessional teamwork starting from the education of healthcare professionals all the way up to the practice of each profession [10].

Interprofessional collaboration is not always a result of heavy planning. Sometimes it is born out of necessity. In Namibia, for example, the curriculum of both medicine and pharmacy has been developed to meet the needs of the local community whilst providing care to patients though interprofessional practice. It was a lack of infrastructure that caused the university to create a program with shared classes and environments. The program also notably included a rotation at a tuberculosis hospital that required students from different professions to work together in order to treat the patient [11,12].


Key efforts by IPSF concerning the FIP Workforce Development Goals (WDGs) have been summarised in a blog post [13,14]. Interprofessional teamwork is highlighted under WDG number 8 - “Working with others in the healthcare team”.

IPSF has had representatives at the WHO Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health (HRH, and its accompanying Youth Forum) in Dublin in November 2017. At this event, IPSF co-signed the Youth Call for Action “Health workers are an investment not a cost” [15].



The World Healthcare Students' Symposium (WHSS), a fascinating educational event organized by the Rwanda Pharmaceutical Students' Association (RPSA), was held in November 2017. Around 1500 healthcare students from 32 countries gathered in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss the theme “Towards the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) agenda 2030: the role of a multidisciplinary approach in healthcare” [16,17].

This big and important event fostered interprofessional collaboration between pharmacy, medical, dental, veterinary, nursing students and young professionals. It was co-organised by volunteers from all their related associations including IFMSA, IVSA, IADS, EPSA, EMSA and EDSA. The WHSS is a direct example of interprofessional collaboration of education and practice [18]. All partners, including IPSF, are looking forward to many more future projects.

In summary, IPSF values the importance of interprofessional collaboration across the board and is committed to developing these relationships further.













12. Wessels Q., Rennie T. (2013) Reflecting on interprofessional education in the design of space and place: lessons from Namibia. J Interprof Care 27 Suppl 269–271.