Global education for collaborative practice


  • Pamela H. Mitchell

Collaborative practice is one of the key themes for the International Nursing Review (INR). Indeed, a search of the journal using that term discovers 196 citations. However, very few of those papers address collaborative practice as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO): ‘When multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work together with patients, families, carers, and communities to deliver the highest quality of care’ (WHO 2010; Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel 2011),

Nor do these papers address how education is preparing nurses locally or globally to lead as well as participate in collaborative practice within and across professions.

Holzemer (2013) recently conjectured that the dominant hierarchy of medical leadership and the unequal distribution of resources for training between medicine and nursing are significant barriers to interprofessional education for the kind of team practice advocated for the 21st Century (Cuff et al. 2014). These are real and important barriers and they are consistent with those cited in the interprofessional literature (WHO 2013; Tang et al. 2013; Bryar et al. 2012).

I have a more optimistic view, however, and am heartened by primary health care case studies most recently published by the WHO Nursing and Midwifery Section (2013) and reports of the development of communities of practice in collaborative nursing research across African, North American and European Universities (for example, Bentley et al. 2014 and Uys & Middleton 2011). Further, the recent WHO publication of case studies in successful demonstrations indicates that facilitators of interprofessional collaborative practice are there. These case studies provide excellent examples of best practices for communities of practice. Unfortunately, the publication does not clarify the extent to which nursing leadership was present in those case studies (WHO 2013). The emphasis in North America on tertiary and acute care sometimes blinds us to the facilitators and opportunities in primary health care that are so salient to our colleagues throughout the world.


The fact remains that little of this work reporting facilitators and outcomes of collaborative interprofessional practice are published in INR. As a brand new Associate Editor, I would challenge the community of practice of our readership to remedy that. Multiple reports of successful collaborations are presented at international nursing and health professions conference, but so few make their way into the published literature. Faculty in my School of Nursing recently had a rich discussion of programs and activities in which they are engaged with colleagues throughout the world, yet few had written this work as products of scholarly inquiry.

In answer to Holzemer's editorial, I would say the time is now for nursing, public health, medicine and others to engage in interprofessional education for collaborative practice. The time is now to report their outcomes in a wide range of professional and interprofessional journals.

Pamela H. Mitchell, RN, PhD, FAAN, FAHA is an Associate Editor of the International Nursing Review (INR). She is Professor of Bio-behavioral Nursing and Health Systems, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Health Services at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, USA. She is also the founding Director of the Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education and Research at the same university.