3.2 Interprofessional Communication

IPEC Competency 3: Interprofessional Communication

The third IPEC competency focuses on interprofessional communication and states, “Communicate with patients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields in a responsive and responsible manner that supports a team approach to the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease” (Interprofessional Education Collaborative, 2022.). This competency also aligns with The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal for improving staff communication (The Joint Commission, 2021). See the following box for the components associated with the Interprofessional Communication competency.


Components of IPEC’s Interprofessional Communication Competency (Interprofessional Education Collaborative, 2022)

  • Choose effective communication tools and techniques, including information systems and communication technologies, to facilitate discussions and interactions that enhance team function.
  • Communicate information with patients, families, community members, and health team members in a form that is understandable, avoiding discipline-specific terminology when possible.
  • Express one’s knowledge and opinions to team members involved in patient care and population health improvement with confidence, clarity, and respect, working to ensure common understanding of information, treatment, care decisions, and population health programs and policies.
  • Listen actively and encourage ideas and opinions of other team members.
  • Give timely, sensitive, constructive feedback to others about their performance on the team, responding respectfully as a team member to feedback from others.
  • Use respectful language appropriate for a given difficult situation, crucial conversation, or conflict.
  • Recognize how one’s uniqueness (experience level, expertise, culture, power, and hierarchy within the health care team) contributes to effective communication, conflict resolution, and positive interprofessional working relationships.
  • Communicate the importance of teamwork in patient-centered care and population health programs and policies.

Transmission of information among members of the health care team and facilities is ongoing and critical to quality care. However, information that is delayed, inefficient, or inadequate creates barriers for providing quality of care. Communication barriers continue to exist in health care environments due to interprofessional team members’ lack of experience when interacting with other disciplines. For instance, many novice nurses enter the workforce without experiencing communication with other members of the health care team (e.g., providers, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, social workers, surgical staff, dieticians, physical therapists, etc.). Additionally, health care professionals  tend to develop a professional identity based on their educational program with a distinction made between groups. This distinction can cause tension between professional groups due to diverse training and perspectives on providing quality patient care. In addition, a health care organization’s environment may not be conducive to effectively sharing information with multiple staff members across multiple units.

In addition to potential educational, psychological, and organizational barriers to sharing information, there can also be general barriers that impact interprofessional communication and collaboration. See the following box for a list of these general barriers (O’Daniel & Rosenstein, 2011).

General Barriers to Interprofessional Communication and Collaboration (O’Daniel & Rosenstein, 2011)

  • Personal values and expectations
  • Personality differences
  • Organizational hierarchy
  • Lack of cultural humility
  • Generational differences
  • Historical interprofessional and intraprofessional rivalries
  • Differences in language and medical jargon
  • Differences in schedules and professional routines
  • Varying levels of preparation, qualifications, and status
  • Differences in requirements, regulations, and norms of professional education
  • Fears of diluted professional identity
  • Differences in accountability and reimbursement models
  • Diverse clinical responsibilities
  • Increased complexity of patient care
  • Emphasis on rapid decision-making

There are several national initiatives that have been developed to overcome barriers to communication among interprofessional team members. These initiatives are summarized in Table 3.2 (Weller et al., 2014).

Table 3.2 Initiatives to Overcome Barriers to Interprofessional Communication and Collaboration (Weller et al., 2014)

Action Description
Teach structured interprofessional communication strategies Structured communication strategies, such as ISBARR, handoff reports, I-PASS reports, and closed-loop communication should be taught to all health professionals.
Train interprofessional teams together Teams that work together should train together.
Train teams using simulation Simulation creates a safe environment to practice communication strategies and increase interdisciplinary understanding.
Define cohesive interprofessional teams Interprofessional health care teams should be defined within organizations as a cohesive whole with common goals and not just a collection of disciplines.
Create democratic teams All members of the health care team should feel valued. Creating democratic teams (instead of establishing hierarchies) encourages open team communication.
Support teamwork with protocols and procedures Protocols and procedures encouraging information sharing across the whole team include checklists, briefings, huddles, and debriefing. Technology and informatics should also be used to promote information sharing among team members.
Develop an organizational culture supporting health care teams Agency leaders must establish a safety culture and emphasize the importance of effective interprofessional collaboration for achieving good patient outcomes.

Communication Strategies

Several communication strategies have been implemented nationally to ensure information is exchanged among health care team members in a structured, concise, and accurate manner to promote safe patient care. Examples of these initiatives are ISBARR, handoff reports, closed-loop communication, and I-PASS. Documentation that promotes sharing information interprofessionally to promote continuity of care is also essential. These strategies are reviewed in Appendix C.

Nurses may already be using these strategies in their health system. However, a key responsibility of nursing leaders is to ensure that communication tools are used effectively. Nurses are encouraged to review the barriers and strategies to determine the efficacy of communication within their own health system. Assessing one’s own communication style is helpful in identifying potential strategies for enhanced communication. See Applied Learning Activity 3.2 Communication Style Inventory below.


Applied Learning Activity 3.2 Communication Style Inventory

Next: 3.3 Teams and Teamwork

Appendix C


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Leading Change in Health Systems: Strategies for RN-BSN Students Copyright © 2023 by Kathy Andresen DNP, MPH, RN, CNE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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