Dietetics: Our Role in Interprofessional Education and Practice

Collaboration is a term used frequently in the discussion of Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Interprofessional Practice (IPP). These two terms focus on the idea of healthcare professionals collaborating together to improve patient outcomes.  With these ideas in mind, we can create an environment in a healthcare setting focused on patient satisfaction with underlying understanding, respect, and open-mindedness to all healthcare professionals. Studies have shown that quality of patient care improves when healthcare professionals work, learn, and share knowledge and skills1. In embracing the idea of IPE and IPP, healthcare professionals can change the way healthcare is delivered.

What is the difference between IPE and IPP?

  • Interporfessional collaboration.pngInterprofessional Education takes place when students from different disciplines learn from, about, and with each other to reach the ultimate goal of improving the quality of patient care2. With a background in collaborating with peers in different disciplines these students are ready to enter the workforce “collaboration practice ready”3.


  • Interprofessional Practice is the idea of multiple healthcare professionals, from different backgrounds, working together with families, patients, and communities to deliver the highest quality of care2.

 IPE/IPP programs emphasize:

  • Teamwork
  • Understanding other disciplines roles and responsibilities
  • Respectful communication
  • Clinical practice

 How can these be used in our academic careers?

Interprofessional Education (IPE) is an experience that can teach valuable information to students who will be entering the field of healthcare. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses on three benefits from IPE:

  • Collaborative skills are earned that students can apply to many aspects of their career4
  • Universities better prepare their undergraduates for employment4
  • Students develop a greater understanding for overall health systems4

During my current, and final semester at Idaho State University, I have participated in an IPE/IPP class called Interdisciplinary Evaluation Team. This class allows students to follow a team, composed of many different healthcare professionals, as they evaluate three pediatric clients. As students, we are able to observe the processes by which each discipline conducts an assessment on the child. With each observation, I was able gain an understanding of how important all disciplines are for optimal patient care and how the information gained in one assessment can be utilized in another. I was also able to observe the final staffing of all the disciplines as they worked to determine the best treatment for the client. This is where I learned the importance of respectful communication. With the help of IPE, students in all disciplines can gain an insight on communicating to other disciples and how to utilize each other to provide optimal patient-centered care.

teamwork.jpgHow can these be used in our professional careers?

There are many evidenced based studies that prove the success of the implementation of IPP/IPE in the workplace. Some of the improvements include2:

  • Higher levels of patient satisfaction
  • Better acceptance of care and improved health outcomes
  • Reduced cost of care
  • Reduced duration of treatment

As dietitians and dietetic students, being in a healthcare or educational setting that practices these ideas, will allow us to play many different roles based on multiple factors.

  • Environment5
  • Client Needs5
  • Scope of Practice5
  • Individual Competence5

Our roles in the healthcare setting can change based on these different factors. Our role is based on the fact that we must have the competence required to perform the act. Those who specialize in specific areas of nutrition care (ex. Renal, Oncology, Wound Care) may be better able to handle certain tasks based on that specialization. The environment can also play a big factor in our roles in IPP, depending on the value each facility has for a dietitian, we may have more or less influence on patient care. Client needs can also influence the roles we play in IPP. We may simply act as an outsider and advocate for the patients well-being, or we may be in charge of creating a feeding plan to reverse severe malnutrition. The simple fact is, that as dietitians we can play many different roles in IPP and can use our scope of knowledge to influence patients and other healthcare professionals.

Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,

Alyssa Lynott 

1. Chatalalsingh C. Enhancing Interprofessional Collaboration. College of Dietitians of Ontario. Available at: Accessed February 25, 2016.
2. World Health Organization. Framework for action on interprofessional education and collaborative practice. Geneva: WHO Press. 2010. Available at: Accessed on February 24, 2016.
3. Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel. Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: Report of an expert panel. Washington, D.C.: Interprofessional Education Collaborative. 2011. Available at: Accessed on: February 24, 2016
4. Eliot K.A, Kolasa K.M. The Value in Interprofessional, Collaborative-Ready Nutrition and Dietetics Practitioners. JAND. 2015. 115(10): 1578-1588.
5. College of Dietitians of Ontario Page. Interprofessional Collaboration (IPC) Elearning Module. Available at: Accessed on February 25, 2016
6.Interprofessional Collaboration. Digital image.Http:// N.p., n.d. Web.
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