Optimizing the Area Health Education Center Interprofessional Clinical Learning Environment: The North Carolina AHEC Initiative
Addressing selected theme:
Organizational leaders who optimize the Interprofessional Clinical Learning Environment (IP-CLE) for all learners are committed to lifelong interprofessional learning. They also advocate and allocate resources for interprofessional learning and collaborative practice. The North Carolina Area Health Education Center (NC AHEC) is part of a national organization responsible for placing health professions students in a variety of real-world settings and providing accredited continued education (CE) programs to healthcare professionals. The NC AHEC leadership recognized that their CE programs reflected a traditional, siloed approach to health care delivery. They advocated for a culture change by allocating resources for an educational program designed to assist educators to integrate continuing interprofessional education (CIPE) into CE programming. The desired outcome was to enhance collaborative practice, improve interprofessional health care delivery, and optimize the clinical interprofessional learning environment.
In spring 2014, an innovative statewide initiative was designed for AHEC CE leaders, CE professionals, and CE faculty to learn about integrating interprofessional education into traditional CE programs. The initiative began with a CIPE Summit in fall 2014, followed by two longitudinal training institutes. One institute, The Professional Development Institute, targeted AHEC CE professionals who provide CE programs in the nine regional NC AHECs. This institute consisted of four one-hour live interactive webinars delivered over a six-month period. The goal was to guide CE Professionals through a CIPE planning process to demonstrate the distinctions between traditional CE and CIPE program design, implementation, and assessment. The Owen CIPE Planning Process Guide and the Lake Reﬂective Tool were utilized to accomplish this goal. Learning within communities of practice and in situ learning were employed by having CE Professionals at each regional AHEC identify and then design, implement, and assess a CIPE program in conjunction with the webinar presentations of the CIPE planning process.
Description of outcomes:
Evaluation results for each webinar and additional participant comments revealed an overall effectiveness and achievement of the learning objectives. Faculty effectiveness ratings for each webinar also were positive. Comparison of pre-post webinar Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) evaluation questions revealed that the CE Professionals had improved in their preparation (3.47-4.08 pre/post) and capacity (3.50-4.00 pre/post) to plan and implement CIPE activities. Seven of the NC AHECs completed CIPE events following the Professional Development Institute. One such program was designed to improve collaboration among health professionals in providing safe, patient-centered health care delivery for sickle cell patients. By June 2017, NC AHECs had offered a total of 36 CIPE events.
As a result of this initiative, the NC AHEC IP-CLE was optimized for all learners along the continuum of education. Successful strategies included transformational leaders who advocated and allocated resources, a committed community of practice, a deliberate and intentional plan to change the culture, a longitudinal training program which included webinar technology, in-situ experiential learning, reflection, feedback and coaching, a systematic, standardized CIPE planning process to maintain the integrity of CIPE activities, and CE professionals willing to learn and to integrate IPE into their traditional CE programs.