Rounds with Leadership: Setting a New Standard for Interprofessional Education

AACN Board Chair Cynthia McCurren and AACN CEO Deborah Trautman

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

Facilitating engagement and shared clinical experiences among health profession students is important to their professional formation and engenders respect for the contribution each provider makes to quality health care. Most importantly, this approach to learning is directly connected to mitigating errors, lowering costs, and achieving the best patient outcomes in keeping with the Quintuple Aim.

Embedded in AACN’s 2021 Essentials is a strong emphasis on advancing interprofessional education and collaborative practice. As one of the primary areas of nursing practice, Interprofessional Partnerships (Domain 6) calls for intentional collaboration across professions and with care team members, patients, families, communities, and other stakeholders to optimize care, enhance the healthcare experience, and achieve desired results. In all practice settings, nurses must be prepared to understand how to apply their unique knowledge and skills as a member and leader of a care team.

AACN has long recognized the need to strengthen interprofessional education to the benefit of clinicians and the recipients of their care. In 2009, AACN joined with five leading health profession organizations to form the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), including the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Dental Education Association, and Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. Now comprising 22 national organizations, IPEC members coalesced around a common view that interprofessional education and practice are essential to providing safe, high-quality, accessible, and person/client-centered care and to improving population health outcomes. Achieving this vision requires the continuous development of interprofessional competencies as an integral part of the learning process.

Earlier this month, IPEC announced the release of the IPEC Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice: Version 3. First published in 2011 and updated in 2016, the IPEC competencies have become an indispensable resource to advancing interprofessional education for collaborative practice. AACN is grateful to Dr. Jane Kirschling, retired dean from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Dr. Frances Vlasses, professor emeritus from the Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and Stritch School of Medicine, Shelley McKearney, IPEC Associate Director, for their contributions to this important work.

For more than a decade, the IPEC competencies have been widely adopted and integrated into curriculum across the health professions. The 2023 version reflects contemporary research, policy, education, and practice realities. Following a two-year consensus building process, the latest set of competencies outlines four key areas of interprofessional collaborative practice:

  • Values and Ethics: Team members work to maintain a climate of shared values, ethical conduct, and mutual respect.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Members leverage knowledge of one’s own role and team member expertise to address health outcomes.
  • Communication: Communication should be responsive, responsible, respectful, and compassionate.
  • Teams and Teamwork: Members apply science related to optimizing collaborative practice to adapt one’s own role in a variety of team settings. 

The competencies include a strong emphasis on respecting discipline-specific expertise and contributions to care, engaging in shared leadership, addressing the social determinants of health, and striving for social justice, cultural humility, and health equity.

As you move ahead with the work to redesign your nursing programs to meet contemporary standards, we encourage you to incorporate the 2023 IPEC competencies into your curriculum. AACN will continue to share information and guidance as new standards are issued to ensure that faculty are fully informed about the latest approaches to preparing more practice-ready nurses.