Nexus Leadership Blog: Duality and Complexity

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Barbara Brandt

I always enjoy my interactions with so many inspiring national and international colleagues working hard every day to implement team-based care and new interprofessional education models in practice.  What is especially fun for me is when I hear from someone with whom I worked in my past.  Last week there were several, but one that stood out and made me pause to reflect was with Dr. Joe Florence from my time at the University of Kentucky. Joe is a family physician now at East Tennessee State University. I first met Joe when he worked at the Center for Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky at the same time I was developing clinical teaching sites in Eastern Kentucky with the Kentucky Area Health Education Center program.  I loved those days, interacting with many committed and innovative people in new cultures for me.  After my last blog, Joe had a short message for me:

“It’s time to look at life from both sides now.  That sounds like a Joni Mitchell tune.  Seems like there are many more than two sides to the issues.” 

Any of you “of a certain age”, or at least a fan of a certain era of music, will recognize the song Joe called out, and yes, my reference in the blog was intentional, if subtle. It’s an old 60’s song, written during another uncertain and changing time.  When I am grappling for understanding in my personal and professional life, I have often read the lyrics and reflect on my own situation.  And, Joe is right, it is more complex than that – it’s both Joni Mitchell, the writer, but it’s also the team – with Judy Collins, the singer, along with producers, arrangers and literally hundreds of singers since.  Good ideas snowball.

Since creating the vision for the National Center, we hear from many who contact us with the impression that we only work in education, or others see us as only working in practice.  It’s more complex than that – it always is. How can we understand both perspectives to move new models of care forward – and align interprofessional education with transforming health care?  Often our firmly held beliefs and individual world view gets in our way of innovation and creativity and slows progress. It’s complex.

Today, I feel like we are living in a world of duality thinking:  red/blue, black/white, Republican/Democrat, physician/nurse, urban/rural, right/wrong, national/state – and on and on.  It’s more complex, even more so an age of uncertainty.

Over the past several weeks as we work on the National Center’s August 2017 Nexus Summit, our team has spoken with many leaders and experts to design provocative opportunities for understanding and engagement during this time of duality and complexity. At the Summit we want to explore ideas and examples that will inspire you to look at your work differently, open yourself to the possibilities and opportunities of new approaches to interprofessional practice, and motivate teams to foster change.

In order to put provocative ideas into practical IPE we need to try and leave our biases and mindsets behind and be open to different perspectives; unfiltered, unbiased and open for suggestions. I’m particularly excited about our keynote speaker, Lewis G. Sandy MD FACP is Executive Vice President, Clinical Advancement, UnitedHealth Group, who titled his discussion with us as True North:  Advancing Interprofessional Practice and Education in Turbulent Times.

Perhaps it’s time to stand back and reflect and admit that we really don’t know life at all.  Today’s provocative idea.