During my cardiology placement, I was allocated to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU). This environment was completely alien to me and I felt extremely out of place as a first-year student. Thankfully, after I joined the ward round a senior nurse noticed me and was kind enough to teach me how to read an electrocardiogram (ECG). She patiently explained the meaning of the myriad of letters, numbers, and lines (which I will admit had previously left me feeling rather bewildered). During the remainder of the ward round, I was able to participate more actively by reading the ECGs with her support and encouragement. From this experience of interprofessional learning, I feel that I gained not only the knowledge of how to read an ECG, but I also gained a sense of being a member of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). I found this experience very positive, and I subsequently made a conscious effort to take part in other interprofessional learning opportunities with other healthcare students and cardiac sonographers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) (2010) described interprofessional learning as an experience occurring when “when two or more professionals learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes” (1). This may include a student learning from a healthcare professional, or qualified professionals from different training pathways learning from one another.

Interprofessional learning has many features which make it an essential part of medical education. These include the promotion of teamwork, effective communication, and reflection; In addition, emphasis is placed on developing respect and understanding of other professional roles in healthcare (1-3). These elements of interprofessional learning contribute to the development of healthcare professionals who are prepared for collaborative practice which in turn leads to improved patient outcomes (1). This makes early exposure to such learning experiences particularly important for students as it may lead to both enhanced understanding of the many roles within the MDT and demonstrate the effective communication between different professionals. These are both essential in preparing students for clinical practice (2-4). Burford et al (2020) found that a single interprofessional learning simulation was associated with some degree of enhanced professional identity, and the positive emotions associated with group membership or ‘ingroup affect’; I have experienced both these benefits following my participation in interprofessional learning.   

Unfortunately, a range of barriers to interprofessional learning in various settings have been identified. These include traditional hierarchies, lack of knowledge and understanding of other professions, lack of management support and financial constraints amongst other issues. (3-4). Although these obstacles exist it is important to recognise that they are far outweighed by the benefits. Interprofessional learning experiences support the development of students who have an enhanced professional identity and are prepared for collaborative practice (1). As such, all possible efforts must be made to remove these barriers and incorporate interprofessional learning activities into education in all healthcare settings so that we can provide the best care for our patients.


1.     World Health Organisation (WHO), (2010). Framework for action on interprofessional education and collaborative practice. [Online]. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/70185/WHO_HRH_HPN_10.3_eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y [Last accessed 29/11/22]

2.     Burford B, Greig P, Kelleher M, Merriman C, Platt A, Richards E, Davidson N, Vance G, (2020). Effects of a single interprofessional simulation session on medical and nursing students’ attitudes toward interprofessional learning and professional identity: a questionnaire study. BMC Medical Education. 20(65) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-020-1971-6 [Last accessed 29/11/22]

3.     Parsell G, Bligh J, (1998). Interprofessional learning. Postgrad med J. 74;89-95. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/pgmj.74.868.89 [Last accessed 29/11/22]

4.     Van Diggele C, Roberts C, Burgess A, Mellis C, (2020). Interprofessional education: tips for design and implementation. BMC Medical Education. 20(2) 455 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-020-02286-z [Last accessed 29/11/22]

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