Myth Busting Health Professions and Interprofessional Education at the Crossroads

Barbara Fifield Brandt, Founding Director

I am really excited about Nexus Summit 2021 – our annual meeting grows every year, and this one is no different. We have again received an unprecedented number of abstract submissions from old friends and new colleagues as well as more volunteers as reviewers and planners. We will be using our More Than a Meeting™ virtual platform that was evaluated highly last year. I am particularly pleased that we are bringing back signature interactive features such as Nexus Fairs and the Conversation Cafés.

Your input during Nexus Summit 2020 was instrumental in helping us shape our strategic directions that form the basis of this year’s meeting. In addition to practical approaches for IPE that matter, we will be introducing and hosting discussions about ideas to carry beyond the Summit. We are able to link a number of efforts in the National Center to design the meeting, notably our paper commissioned for the National Academy of Medicine Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report and our new focus on the role of the social science of interprofessional practice and education led by Barret Michalec and Jim Ballard who is the incoming chair of the American Interprofessional Health Collaborative. Let me explain.

In September 2019, the National Center was charged by the NAM Future of Nursing 2020-2030 Committee to make recommendations about the social determinants of health and health equity for nursing and interprofessional education based upon our experience. My co-authors1 and I poured over the literature and held deep, honest discussions about its meaning for five months. We came to the undeniable conclusion: health professions and interprofessional education is at a crossroads because we are focused on the wrong things. A question for us emerged as we filed our paper on February 26, 2020: If clinical care represents only 25% (or at the most 40%) of health, why aren’t we creating educational programs to address the important 60-75% of upstream factors, or the social determinants of health as the core? We educators treat the SDoH as an add-on because we are too busy elsewhere. Or, like many things, it gets fleeting attention before we move on. And, for me who has built my entire career around health professions education linking practice and underserved communities, have I paid enough attention to self-reflection about what we are really doing? Are we perpetuating the status quo? For me, writing the commissioned paper was personally transformative.

Then, in a matter of days, the realities of the COVID pandemic struck. We saw the horrors of the social determinants of health, health inequities, disparities, and impact of upstream factors, play out before our very eyes as never before. Health teams and educators world-wide had to adapt and adjust in real time. Our academic exercise and original conclusions for the commissioned paper became an undeniable truth with a call for action.

In preparing to work with Barret and Jim on the incredibly important social science focus for the National Center, I have been reading their work. Barret’s papers led me to the concept of myth-busting and the January 2020 issue of Medical Education. This themed issue explores self-reflection of myths about health professions education that we have built up over time, including debunking the myth that the majority of medical errors are attributable to miscommunication.2 In their paper, Barret and his colleagues also describe myths such as “the ideal candidate”, “cut-throats”, “cadaver stories”, “learning styles”, and “patient information leaflets” to move behaviors and cultures in education in a certain direction. And, they described that it is equally important to use myth-busting as a healthy process for individual and collective self-examination, open discussion, being uncomfortable, examining our values and focus to move toward what matters most.

With the unprecedented interest in Nexus Summit 2021, I see us learning from each other about our practical everyday work. And, we are designing the meeting to examine our myths, blind spots and pain points at the crossroads of interprofessional practice and education. I am energized and looking forward to diving into learning together.


1 Amy Barton, University of Colorado; Carla Dieter, National Center; and Shanita Williams, HRSA

2 Another great resource: Robert L. Wears and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. (2019). Still Not Safe: Patient Safety and the Middle-Managing of Middle Managing of American Medicine. Oxford University Press.