First Steps to Developing an Interprofessional Healthcare Workforce

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On Thursday May 28, 2015 educators, providers, administrators, students, and consumers of healthcare met at Wheelock College to tackle the question of: What is integrated, interprofessional healthcare and how do we train the future workforce to work in such models. The answer seems to lie in students being the leaders of this model. What is integrated, interprofessional healthcare? The second panel of the day was a panel of providers who are trying first hand to define integrated, interprofessional healthcare. In its ideal, it is a system that addresses the social determinants of health, health disparities based in socio-economic-oppressive structures, and treating the whole person and his/her environment (the parts of a person’s life that add up to make his/her entire world: school, work, neighborhood, family, pollution, housing, violence, nutrition, culture).

Professor Nicole Dubus kicks off the interprofessional healthcare symposium with providers, administrators, students, and educators.
Professor Nicole Dubus kicks off the interprofessional healthcare symposium with providers, administrators, students, and educators.

This model has the potential to see healthcare as a team of professionals working together to provide treatment, services, and resources to enhance an individual’s, a family’s, and a community’s well-being. To work well, this model needs to see specialties as fellow team mates rather than siloed experts who work independently on the same patient. To work well, this model can only survive if bred within a healthcare culture that looks beyond the disease and cure of an individual, and toward the health of a community, society, and globe. Individual health agencies and institutions need to be the incubators for this culture. Providers must be trained in seeing the whole person within his/her environment, and other healthcare practitioners as members of the healing team. This is and will continue to be a challenge.

In the United States, the development of health care was based on the expertise of doctors and their ability to cure. Other healthcare professionals were assistants and auxiliaries to doctors. We need to move toward a shared approach where each professional is brought to the table. The facilitator of the team should be a social worker. Social Workers are trained to view the person within his/her environment and to reach out to various providers to meet the needs of the patient. Well-trained social workers develop a lens that zooms into the intra-psychic aspects of the individual, zooming out to see the symptoms of a disease or disorder, are able to zoom out further to see the individual’s family life, work life, neighborhood, zooming out further still to see the community, social policies and structures that affect the individual, zooming out even more to see the person in relation to the country, and finally with the widest lens to see the individual in a global view.

While it might take a village to raise a child, it takes a global view to heal an individual. This symposium was the first of what is to be an annual gathering of innovative, compassionate visionaries who see the potential of this historic moment to redefine health and healthcare.

Professor Nicole Dubus has been active in the field since the mid-1980s, working in northern California and Massachusetts in public and private settings. Her research interests are in community-based research, home-visitation programs, early parenthood, culturally-sensitive clinical skills, and the experiences of refugees throughout the life course. Her field and academic experiences are in the areas of addictions, health care that addresses the physical-emotional-social-economic well-being of the individual, feminism, relational-cultural theory, social justice, direct practice skills, and program evaluation. Her current areas of interest are in trans-cultural aging, post-traumatic stress from torture and genocide, immigration issues, and health and mental health service delivery and systems barriers for this population.

Learn about Wheelock’s Social Work in Integrated Healthcare Certificate Program led by Dr. Nicole Dubus.

Further Reading: “No Man Is and Island in Healthcare,” a recap from a Wheelock education policy intern.