Boston, MA – The world of healthcare education is evolving. In a landmark move, the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) has released revised interprofessional collaborative practice competencies, stirring the academic community into navigating previously untrodden waters. IPEC’s recent revision embeds, for the first time, the principles of anti-oppressive practice into the heart of healthcare education. This critical step forward acknowledges the systemic inequalities within healthcare and the imperative need for an educational framework that prepares future healthcare professionals to confront and mitigate these issues.

The Journal of Interprofessional Care, a resource known for providing insights into developments in interprofessional education and practice, published an article (DOI: 10.1080/13561820.2024.2303498) shedding light on how one institution, a health professions graduate school in Boston, MA, has been pioneering these changes. With a landscape shifting towards justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), the article penned by Peter S. Cahn, Callie Watkins Liu, and Midge Hobbs offers an illuminating narrative of the transition toward anti-oppression competencies within interprofessional education (IPEC competencies).

Keywords

1. Interprofessional Education
2. Anti-Oppression Competencies
3. Healthcare Equity
4. Narrative Pedagogy
5. IPEC Core Competencies

The Wake-Up Call: A System in Need of Change

The healthcare system is complex and, historically, has been a breeding ground for disparities. Despite numerous efforts to address equity, various forms of oppression – including racism, sexism, ableism, and more – continue to pervade healthcare interactions and outcomes. These inequalities contribute to worse health outcomes for many marginalized communities, making the need for system-wide training in anti-oppression crucial.

Responding to this urgency, IPEC’s update reflects a watershed moment. It empowers healthcare educators to prepare a new generation of practitioners who are not only cognizant of these systemic issues but also equipped with strategies to actively address and dismantle them.

Curriculum Redesign: Beyond Theory, Into Practice

The article highlights the experiences of the MGH Institute of Health Professions, which has been at the forefront of integrating these updated competencies into its curriculum. Beginning in 2021, faculty members and JEDI experts embarked on a curriculum overhaul designed to embed anti-oppression frameworks into all aspects of interprofessional learning.

The method they chose was a narrative approach: using common readings, case studies, and simulation scenarios that focus on portraying and thereby uncovering biases, examining power dynamics, and developing responses to microaggressions. The revised curriculum targets narrative elements to foster deeper reflection on how healthcare professionals relate to one another, to patients, and to the wider community they serve.

Stories as Catalysts for Change

The power of narrative as a pedagogical tool is well established, and by embedding anti-oppressive narratives into the curriculum, the institution leveraged this power to create transformative learning experiences. Stories and simulations provide concrete, relatable scenarios that can evoke the empathy required to drive genuine behavioral change. Through these narratives, learners are not only imparted with knowledge but also gain a visceral understanding of the impact of oppression in healthcare contexts.

Assessment and Impact

The new competencies allow learners to assess their actions and biases critically. They also encourage future practitioners to view themselves as allies who can work within the system to promote change. Integrating anti-oppression competencies is seen not merely as an academic exercise but an ethical imperative that prepares students to contribute positively towards a more equitable healthcare environment.

Reception and Future Directions

The reception to these curricular innovations has been promising. Students express an increased awareness of the role social determinants play in patient outcomes and a greater willingness to confront inequitable practices. This reform presents a blueprint for other institutions seeking to promote social justice within their curricula.

The implications of these changes extend far beyond the classroom. As these healthcare professionals enter the workforce, the impact of their enhanced understanding of and commitment to combatting oppression will reverberate throughout the healthcare system, with the potential to improve patient care, outcomes, and community trust.

Challenges Ahead

The journey towards fully anti-oppressive healthcare education is not without challenges. It requires a paradigm shift within institutions entrenched in historical practices. Moreover, it demands ongoing self-reflection and effort from educators, students, and practitioners to continually challenge and unlearn oppressive behaviors.

Implementing these changes calls for robust support systems and resources. Faculty must be trained to facilitate discussions about oppression and identity. Meanwhile, institutions must provide psychological safety for students as they wrestle with often uncomfortable and personally challenging material.

References

1. Cahn, P. S., Watkins Liu, C., & Hobbs, M. (2024). Using narrative to integrate anti-oppression into interprofessional collaborative practice competencies. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 1(4), 1-4. DOI: 10.1080/13561820.2024.2303498.
2. Interprofessional Education Collaborative. (2023). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: 2023 update.
3. Kumagai, A. K., & Lypson, M. L. (2009). Beyond cultural competence: critical consciousness, social justice, and multicultural education. Academic Medicine, 84(6), 782-787.
4. Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
5. Sue, D. W., Rasheed, M. N., & Rasheed, J. M. (2016). Multicultural social work practice: A competency-based approach to diversity and social justice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Conclusion

The MGH Institute of Health Professions’ innovative use of narrative to weave anti-oppression competencies into its curriculum represents a proactive stride in reshaping the landscape of healthcare education. It challenges other institutions to reflect upon and transform their interprofessional programs to create a healthcare workforce ready to address and advocate for equity and social justice. As society continues to grapple with systemic inequalities, the healthcare industry is being called upon to evolve. The endeavors of educators, the insights of experts, and the willingness of learners to engage in this complex work are essential for realizing a healthcare system that serves all with fairness and compassion.