Interprofessional Learning to Improve Communication in Challenging Healthcare Conversations: What Clinicians Learn From Each Other

J Contin Educ Health Prof. Summer 2019;39(3):201-209. doi: 10.1097/CEH.0000000000000259.


Introduction: Although contemporary health care involves complex interactions among clinicians of varying professions, opportunities to learn together are relatively few. The authors assessed participants' views about the educational value of learning with colleagues of mixed health care professions in communication and relational skills training focused on challenging conversations.

Methods: Between 2010 and 2013, 783 participants enrolled in 46 workshops hosted by the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice at Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, USA. Participants received pre-, post-, and 3-month follow-up questionnaires with quantitative and qualitative questions about their experiences learning with clinicians of varying professions ("interprofessional learning"). Descriptive statistics and chi-square tests were used to compare participant groups. Responses to open-ended questions were coded according to standard principles of content analysis.

Results: Seven hundred twenty-two (92%) participants completed surveys. Previous interprofessional learning was reported by 60% of respondents, but generally comprised <30% of their education. Clinicians with <3 years of work experience were least likely to have previous interprofessional learning. Nearly all (96%) participants reported interprofessional colleagues contributed valuably to their learning. Asked specifically what they learned, participants described five themes: Stronger Teamwork, Patient-Centered Focus, Specific Communication Skills, Content-Specific Knowledge, and Shared Global Values. After 3 months, 64% of respondents reported that workshop participation helped make their interactions with interprofessional colleagues more collaborative.

Discussion: Communication skills training for challenging health care conversations is a valuable opportunity for interprofessional learning and generates sustained positive attitudes about collaboration. Clinicians learn from their colleagues a deeper understanding of each other's professional roles, challenges, and unique contributions; specific communication approaches; and a sense of belonging to a collaborative community reinforcing the patient at the center of care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Boston
  • Communication*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Education / statistics & numerical data
  • Education, Continuing / methods
  • Education, Continuing / standards
  • Education, Continuing / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires