Answer to "How do I ensure that the different health professions interact?"


Effective communication between health and social care team members is regarded as a core competency to ensure the provision of safe and effective services (see Question 4). Poor communication has been identified as a key contributor in multiple investigations of adverse events in health and social services (for example: Francis Report 2013; Garling 2008). 


If health and social care professionals have not interacted with colleagues from outside of their own professional groups during their training, they can struggle to interact effectively in the workplace. When planning interprofessional education for undergraduate or postgraduate students, the introduction of opportunities to interact across professions is a critical starting point. The provision of a safe learning environment that promotes an ethos of equality between learners is vital. A well-established theory that describes this process is the contact hypothesis (Allport 1954, Moran et al, 2011). Having created a supportive learning environment the educator can introduce learning activities to facilitate interprofessional interaction. 


Lack of awareness of the roles of various professions can be a major impediment to interaction. The introduction of practical learning activities that require health professionals to explain their own scopes of practice and learn from others about their scopes of practice will help break down barriers to interaction. However interaction must be for a purpose and targeted to achieve the best possible health and social care. Role awareness (one’s own and that of others) is a good starting point, but to practise interprofessionally, each individual practitioner must be able to interact as part of an interprofessional team comprising one or more other professions. The use of authentic case studies requiring multiple interaction opportunities between the health professions has been identified as a powerful mechanism to help team members develop their interaction behaviours (Boyce et al, 2009). This type of learning activity is particularly impactful if a patient/client/family can be involved to provide opportunities for interaction with the service recipient as well as the professional team members.




ALLPORT, G.W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

BOYCE, R.A., MORAN, M., NISSEN, L., CHENERY, H. and BROOKS, P.  (2009). Interprofessional education in health sciences: why a health care team challenge. Medical Journal of Australia, 190, 433-436

FRANCIS, F. (2013). The Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry (the Francis report). Available at:

GARLING, P. (2008). Final Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry: Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals. NSW: State of NSW through the Special Commission of Inquiry.

LAWLIS, T.R., ANSON, J., and GREENFIELD, D. (2014). Barriers and enablers that influence sustainable interprofessional education: a literature review. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 28(4): 305–310.

MORAN, M., BOYCE, R.A. and NISSEN, L. (2011). Competition the new Collaboration In:  A Sociology of Interprofessional Health Care Practice: Critical Reflections and Concrete Solutions, S. Kitto, J. Chesters, J Thistlethwaite and S Reeves. (eds), New York, Nova Science Publishers.