Project Profile: Social Networking and Interprofessional Education

The Use of Social Networking to Improve the Quality of Interprofessional Education (IPE)

Why is social networking a useful approach to (or strategy for) IPE?
Amy Pittenger, Project Lead
Amy Pittenger, Project Lead

We must find ways for learners to truly collaborate around the care of a patient.  However, there are major logistical barriers to interprofessional education.  Leveraging learning technologies to foster collaboration across learners independent of time and place is an important strategy for overcoming these barriers.  Interprofessional education is something students have to do and they need to experience the power of the team.  Unless you know how powerful collaboration is because you’ve experienced it, it will the first thing that is dropped when things get busy in practice.  In addition, there are many in the Interprofessional Education and Interprofessional Care (IPE/IPC) world who state effective interprofessional communication includes electronic forms and is an essential skill for clinicians today.  We are already using technology to communicate with all members of the health care team, including patients and families, so we need to prepare our learners to be ready for this kind of communication and to explore ways to make the most of the collaboration tools.

Based on your work, what recommendations do you have for the use of social networking in IPE?

I think the first thing is to stop using the descriptor ‘social networking’!  It doesn’t seem as though social networking is an accurate term.  It seemed like such a great way to bring groups of learners together, not only for collaboration, but also for community building. While there may be some social aspects to collaboration, in reality within academia and practice a more pragmatic purpose subsides anything social – probably appropriately.  So, it’s probably more helpful to focus on the utility of the technology to truly foster meaningful collaboration and to expand and enhance the learning that can occur within that collaborative experience.  Once we drop the social networking label and instead use a term, such as communication or learning technologies, it also expands the opportunities for collaboration including tele-health technologies.

For more information:The first publication in this line of inquiry is available here.

Project Lead: Amy Pittenger, Pharm.D., Ph.D.