Preparing to Practice in an Interprofessional Team

In 2010, the World Health Organization published, “Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice.”  This document lists several key messages.  Among them are the following:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners recognize interprofessional collaboration in education and practice as an innovative strategy that will play an important role in mitigating the global health workforce crisis.
  • A collaborative practice-ready health worker is someone who has learned how to work in an interprofessional team and is competent to do so.

The University of Charleston has received these key messages loud and clear.  Current Physician’s Assistant and Pharmacy students are practicing as members of an interprofessional team.

The aging of the American population steadily increases the need for physicians.  The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2030 the United States will be short 100,000 physicians.  These numbers can seem overwhelming.  Interprofessional teamwork is one strategy to relieve this shortage.  Delegation of tasks can decrease the need for physicians by increasing the role of other team members.  Both physician’s assistants and pharmacists, in different ways, take on parts of a physician’s workload.  Pharmacists in ambulatory care settings often manage medication adjustments in chronic disease states like diabetes.  This practice model not only mitigates the provider shortage but also leads to better patient outcomes.

Prior to beginning their final year of schooling at University of Charleston, PA and pharmacy students participate in an Interprofessional experience.  The course involves actors as “patients.”  Students are expected to interact with the patient, diagnose, develop a plan for treatment, and educate the patient.  The process teaches both disciplines to communicate with other healthcare professionals and patients.

Beyond the clinical lessons, the experience often results in newfound respect for the other profession.  Building relationships and learning to collaborate are “soft skills” that young professionals will need in the work force.  University of Charleston students will enter the work force prepared to address healthcare shortages and improve patient outcomes through collaboration within an interprofessional team.





Framework For Action On Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Press; 2010. Accessed November 29, 2017.

Mann S. New Research Shows Shortage of More than 100,000 Doctors by 2030. Newsaamcorg. 2017. Available at: Accessed November 30, 2017.


Contributed by: Leila Fleming, Pharmacy Fellow, Class of 2019