The "IPE" in Team

Nurses help a ventilated patient to use her walker.

Published September 1, 2019

“IPE” is becoming one of the most important acronyms in health care – but what is it?

IPE, or interprofessional education, promotes communication and collaboration across health professions to ensure optimal patient care and outcomes. It is one of American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s nine essential outcomes that enable graduates to practice within a complex, collaborative health care environment.

For the past three years, clinical associate professor Linda Steeg, DNP, RN, ANP-BC; clinical professor Janice Jones, PhD, RN, CNS; and associate professor Patricia Ohtake, PhD, PT, also the UB assistant vice president of interprofessional education, have offered an IPE learning experience for nursing and physical therapy students. This learning experience emphasizes the collaborative efforts of the two professions to promote early mobility interventions for critically ill ICU patients.

In this learning experience, offered in the nursing course “Concepts of Complex Acute Care”, students implement the ABCDEF evidence-based care bundle to reduce ICU delirium and promote rehabilitation to prevent functional decline.

Steeg explains that ICU delirium is associated with patients’ disease processes, medication and constant environmental stimulation from lighting, alarms and ventilators that interrupt the circadian rhythm.

Patients of all ages may experience ICU delirium. The ABCDEF bundle reduces delirium by promoting early mobility and exercise – the “E” component of the bundle.

Evidence indicates that patients who are mobilized to their highest functional level daily have fewer days of mechanical ventilation, decreased incidence of ICU delirium and better health outcomes. Physical therapists, respiratory therapists and nurses work together to mobilize patients, a complex effort that ranges from bed exercises to walking, even while ventilated.

“It’s important that nurses, physical therapists and respiratory therapists collaborate to encourage patient mobility,” says Ohtake. “Sometimes it takes longer to get an intubated patient ready than to perform the intervention, but the intervention is so powerful in improving a patient’s health that it’s worth the effort.”

With a number of our students' first nursing job being on a critical care unit, this learning experience is especially valuable.

Prior to the learning experience, students review an interprofessional article on ICU patient mobility and AACN’s early progressive mobility protocol.

Working in small groups, the in-class activity begins with introductions, including discussions of professional roles and responsibilities.

After viewing an ICU mobility video, students develop an interprofessional exercise and mobility plan for an intubated ICU patient. This class concludes with discussion of their care plans and debriefing.

Physical therapists, respiratory therapists and nurses work together to mobilize patients, a complex effort that ranges from bed exercises to walking, even while ventilated.

“This was a great experience,” says Samantha Manahan, BS ‘19. “We discussed the differences and similarities nurses and PTs have in helping patients with early mobilization. I have a better understanding of the professional relationship that focuses on patient-centered care.”

Physical therapist student Jonathan Lau adds the experience taught him that interprofessional practice and collaboration are key to innovation and better patient care.

Jones stresses that health care professionals don’t work in silos, so students must learn to function in a collaborative care team. Steeg adds that students don’t learn these skills through lectures; they learn through experience.

UB is one of the most comprehensive Academic Health Centers in the nation, so students and faculty enjoy more interprofessional opportunities than many other colleges and universities.

“We’re fortunate to have this range of professions at UB,” says Jones. “Many other schools cannot provide IPE because they may not have a medical school or physical therapy department, for example.”

Beyond improving care quality, IPE makes UB graduates stand out in the workforce. These hands-on activities provide concrete experience in interprofessional teamwork and communication – invaluable skills as health care systems continue to embrace a culture of collaboration.