Improving Interdisciplinary Collaboration in First-year Health Professional Students through a Learner-Developed and Learner-Driven IPE Curriculum

Publication ID Published Version
9284 December 10, 2012 1


In 2006, UCSF began implementing an interprofessional health education (IPE) curriculum for all 475 first-year learners across the five UCSF health professional programs (Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Physical Therapy). Each year, the curriculum has been further refined based on feedback, evaluations and IPE literature review. This task, as well as implementation and evaluation of the curriculum, was largely undertaken by a group of second- and third-year professional students from the schools of pharmacy, dentistry, medicine, and nursing.

The 2011-12 curriculum is based upon selected competencies from the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) report from May 2011. The competencies selected were deemed appropriate and achievable for first-year learners. From these competencies, learning objectives were created for each component of the curriculum. Furthermore, activities were developed that would allow learners to achieve these learning objectives through attendance, participation and interaction at planned curricular events.
This IPE curriculum consists of three components: 2 organized half-day exercises (referred to as Day 1 and Day 2) and a yearlong longitudinal community-based project. For each of these components, first-year learners from each of the professional schools were divided into groups of 7 to 8 interprofessional students (referred to as “pods”), for a total of 60 interprofessional pods. Students remained in the same pods (i.e. with the same group of students) for the entire yearlong curriculum. Due to the differing numbers of students in each program, this allowed for 2-3 medical students, 2-3 pharmacy students, 1-2 nursing students, 1-2 dentistry students, and 0-1 physical therapy students in each group.

Day 1 occurs in the fall quarter and is a 3-hour event in the campus gymnasium with all 475 first-year students, the Deans, several faculty members, and representatives from Student Life Services. Day 1 focuses on a standardized patient monologue and skit, a health policy discussion and the roles and responsibilities of the health professions. First-year learners prepare in advance of the event with required reading of one of four health policy “hot” topics: accountable care organizations, health insurance reform, Healthy San Francisco, and provider shortages. These topics were developed into one-page fact sheets as a means to introduce learners to the subject and to generate discussion during the event. Day 1 begins with a standardized patient actress presenting a monologue of her struggles with the health system. Students, arranged into the pre-assigned interprofessional pods, discuss the patient’s situation and how the prepared health policy topics apply to this patient situation. After the policy discussion, the Deans of each of the UCSF professional programs meet and interview the patient, acting in their respective provider roles. Following this skit, the pods reconvene as a team to discuss the patient’s plan of care.

At the end of the Day 1 presentation, the first-year learners are introduced to the longitudinal project component. The longitudinal projects are community-based projects for which organizations and clinics in the San Francisco Bay area expressed a need for assistance. Representative examples of longitudinal projects include development of tobacco cessation social media, needle exchange program awareness and education materials, development of a needs-based curriculum focused on nutritional education deficits of local high school student, and conducting a study on animal-assisted therapy amongst many others. The project guidelines require each student to commit 10 hours over the course of the year to meeting and working on the project. Twice per quarter, the first-year learners submit project check-ins to the course website, describing their project, roles and responsibilities of team members, and progress updates. Following these submissions, feedback was provided by the student coordinators. The projects were due for upload to the course website in the spring quarter and were graded using a pre-designed assessment rubric.

Day 2 occurs during the winter quarter and focuses on a patient case discussion in small breakout rooms throughout the campus. One or two of the interprofessional pods are assigned to a room with a facilitator. At the start of the event, students introduce themselves and discuss their current curricula and the coursework they look forward to in the future. Following this discussion, students complete a short roles and responsibilities survey adapted from an exercise created by the Wisconsin Area Health Education Center. The survey instructs students to indicate with a check mark which profession(s) perform(s) common patient care activities. The learners review their answers and discuss any differences arising from this roles and responsibilities exercise. This activity leads into a case-based scenario that is a continuance of the Day 1 patient case. The case is reintroduced to the learners who then work together to prioritize the patient’s health needs, identify professions who can meet these needs, and develop a rough patient care plan. Learners then identify and discuss barriers to interprofessional collaboration at their institution and in providing care to this patient, and brainstorm how the curricula need to change in order to prepare them to work with this patient as a team. The day closes with a team-debriefing discussion of their progress on their longitudinal projects and completion of the Day 2 survey.

Days 1 and 2 are evaluated with a post-event survey, which includes items with Likert-scale responses and open-ended questions for comments on the best aspect of each event and how the event could be improved in the future. The curriculum is also evaluated with a pre- and post-curriculum competency assessment tool created by the interprofessional student leaders based on the IPEC 2011 competencies.


Colley P, Cai J, Ofshteyn A, Purcell M, Brock T, Courey R, Hyde S. Improving Interdisciplinary Collaboration in First-year Health Professional Students through a Learner-Developed and Learner-Driven IPE Curriculum. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2012. Available from:

Educational Objectives

  1. To describe the roles of dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, nursing and physical therapy in providing patient-centered and population-oriented care.
  2. To engage in discussion with other health professional students on the role of the interprofessional team in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), with a focus on accountable care organizations, provider shortages, health insurance reform, Healthy San Francisco and the patient-centered Medical Home Model.
  3. To explain the role of Interprofessional Health Education in the health professional curricula as it relates to interprofessional practice in the health system workforce.
  4. To practice being receptive to and eliciting opinions from members of the interprofessional team in a patient-centered fashion.
  5. To work with other health professional students to create a comprehensive care plan for a patient.
  6. To communicate information, one’s professional identity, unique skills and opinions in a manner that is patient-centered, not discipline specific and engages the interprofessional team.
  7. To describe how other health professional school curricula complement and differ from each other, in relation to how these professions can work together as an interdisciplinary team in practice.
  8. To integrate knowledge and experience of other health professions and collaborate with a team of health professional students on a project of their choosing.
  9. To communicate, organize and listen actively with a team of health professional students.


  • First-Year Learner, Small Group Discussion, Teamwork, Interprofessional Education Collaboration (IPEC)


  • Medical
    • Internal Medicine
      • Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism
    • Preventive Medicine
      • Public Health
  • Dental
    • Critical Thinking
    • Preventive Dentistry


  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Interprofessional Collaboration
  • Knowledge for Practice
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-based Learning & Improvement
  • Professionalism
  • Systems-based Practice

Professional Interest

  • Communication Skills
  • Curriculum Development/Evaluation
  • Health Education
  • Health Policy
  • Healthcare Workforce
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Interprofessional
  • Professionalism

Instructional Methods

  • Lecture
  • Team-based Learning (TBL)

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Allied Health Student
    • Dental Student
    • Medical Student
    • Nursing Student
    • Pharmacy Student


  • Presentation
  • Reference

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