Two Years in the Nexus: Looking Back, Moving Forward

I’ll never forget the day in 2012 when I got “the call.” I was sitting still in the Twin Cities traffic when a text from a friend tipped me off that “rumor had it” the University of Minnesota was going to be named the home of the Coordinating Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. The notice of grant award was in my email by the time I got home.

The founding of the Coordinating Center, now the National Center, was a watershed moment for many reasons. It was only six years earlier that it seemed interprofessional education and collaborative practice in the U.S. was drawing its last breath. After nearly 30 years in IPE I, and many others, felt that interest in IPE had waned.   

But, like many ideas before it, IPECP just needed to be in the right place at the right time. With renewed interest stimulated by teamwork, patient safety and quality improvement; the historic Interprofessional Education Collaborative competencies and the looming health policy, doors – in health care systems and higher education – were again starting to creak open.

Two years later we’re already seeing many changes in both systems. There is inspiring work happening all over the country that is bringing the Nexus – the place where health professions education and health care delivery systems work together – to life.

Below are just a few of the things that keep me excited about where we’re headed:

The public-private partnership:  Bringing together public and private funders to address the same issues was a unique approach. It’s suggestive that the issues facing our health care system were too big for a single source or organization. What I appreciate is that the teamwork of our funders at the macro level is illustrative of the teamwork we are studying at the micro level. For example, our cooperative agreement partner, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has frequent calls with us and just came off a three week visit to Minneapolis where we developed plans together for the next three years.

The team:  We are assembling a remarkable team – including staff and advisory committees – supporting our complex work. One of our National Advisory Council members believes that our work – connecting education and practice – is the most important for the future in which she is engaging now.

The response:  Interprofessional education and collaborative practice has taken off more than I ever could have imagined. We’ve had calls from more than 700 organizations looking for information or partnership, and I’ve learned the power of social media as we’ve received Tweets and emails from as far away as Iran and South Africa. I’ve personally traveled thousands of miles speaking and advising multiple individuals – from those in the c-suite to students to patients. I feel like we’re finally moving from the margins to the center.  

The Nexus Innovations Incubator Network:  At the end of the day, this work is about culture change. We have worked diligently with our incubator locations to implement important projects.  It is hard work, and we are learning how to collect meaningful longitudinal data connecting interprofessional education and practice leading to outcomes. We also know of numerous organizations that are doing great work that want to join the network. It’s proof that leadership can happen anywhere – and at any level. I’m excited to start sharing the results of their research.

The future:  I’m taking the long view on the National Center and the field. We need to foster this interest and understanding of IPECP to ensure this resurgence isn’t just a flash in the pan. We’re working to harness the passion of IPECP champions through National Center resources, like the Resource Exchange and website, which are in the midst of a redesign that will lead to more opportunities to inform, connect and engage.

As we enter year three of our National Center journey, I’m grateful to our partners for their continued support and to all the friends I’ve made along the way.