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From Apprehension to Confidence: A Student’s Experience with Interprofessional Education and Collaboration

By Qianxi Tang

Interprofessional collaboration between health care providers can be challenging, particularly for a new graduate. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more interprofessional collaboration to maximize the delivery of healthcare services while also improving health outcomes.

My Interprofessional Collaboration Experiences as a Student

During my three years in the nutrition program at the University of Saskatchewan, I had a variety of interprofessional collaboration learning opportunities, starting during my second week of the program. All first-year students in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nutrition, physical therapy, nursing, public health, and veterinary medicine were required to attend a one-day conference called the Inter-Professional Annual Students' Symposium (I-PASS). The conference aims to introduce interprofessional collaboration to all first-year health science students. During our dietetic training, nutrition students teamed up with health science students as part of a program called Inter-professional Problem Based Learning (iPBL) modules, where we were required to work together on various case studies. However, my favourite interprofessional collaboration experience was an Interprofessional Patient Interview and Care Plan Development Lab. I worked with students from pharmacy and physical therapy on a simulated patient with osteoporosis. We gathered patient information from the chart, interviewed a mock patient, and developed a comprehensive care plan. Working with students from different disciplines created positive relationships and gave me insight into the role of other health care professionals.

My Interprofessional Collaboration Experience in a Research Project

During my practicum year, I participated in a research project where we examined the perceptions of interprofessional education and teamwork in first-year health science students at our university. I worked with a pharmacy student, and together, we surveyed more than 500 first-year health science students, completed data entry, and shared in the data analysis and interpretation. Our research supervisors (one faculty member from pharmacy, Dr. Holly Mansell, and one faculty member from nutrition, Dr. Lesley Moisey) helped us with statistical analysis, interpretation, and disseminating our findings. We found that first-year students are enthusiastic and eager to participate in interprofessional education. Being a female, having a previous degree, and having previous exposure to interprofessional collaboration in school/work were significantly associated with positive perceptions of interprofessional education. We submitted our manuscript to the Journal of Interprofessional Care for review. I also presented our results at the Dietitians of Canada Saskatchewan Research Day to about 80 dietitians and nutrition students.
I learnt a lot from my past interprofessional collaboration experience and grew from a person who was scared of interprofessional collaboration to a person who is passionate about it. Here are my top two tips to make the interprofessional collaboration experience less intimidating when you are first starting out in your education and career:

1. Trust your colleagues.
Your colleagues from other health care professions also undergo extensive training to obtain their credentials. Recognize their expertise and strengths. We can’t be experts in every single field. When it comes to interprofessional collaboration, the ultimate goal of the team is the same, which is to improve health outcomes and provide optimal patient-centered care.

2. Do quality work and show your value.
I’m sure we’ve all felt at times that our value is not recognized by other team members. When it comes to interprofessional collaboration, each team member not only represents themselves but also represents their profession. Dr. Shawna Berenbaum once said to my first-year nutrition class, “respect is earned.” When we work as a team with other health care professionals, the quality work that we provide to the team can also be a means of advocacy for the nutrition profession. Showing other healthcare team members our value as dietitians will help to strengthen this message.
For example, I performed a nutrition assessment during an interview with a simulated patient, observed by a pharmacy student and a physical therapy student. They were both surprised by the detailed nutrition assessment and even asked me to perform nutrition assessments on them for practice. I gained personal satisfaction and became more proud of my growing expertise as a nutrition student.
Interprofessional collaboration can feel challenging for students but is not without its rewards and has helped me feel more confident as I move into my career.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://

Qianxi (Chancy) Tang is a newly graduated dietitian from the University of Saskatchewan. She was born and raised in Nanjing, the former capital of China. Chancy came to Canada to learn more about food and how nutrition can play a role in disease prevention after completing her Bachelor of Integrated Chinese and Western Clinical Medicine in 2014. Besides nutrition, she loves traveling and exploring with families and friends. Chancy hopes to combine traditional Chinese medicine and nutrition in the future. Contact Chancy at
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