Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice


Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as members of the collaborative practice team. This is a key step in moving health systems from fragmentation to a position of strength. (Source: World Health Organization 2010)

Optometry is an integral component of the health care team, and collaborative education and practice is growing within the schools and colleges of optometry. Of ASCO’s schools and colleges of optometry in the continental US and Puerto Rico, 20 are currently components of a multi-disciplinary university or health professions-specific campus. Two such institutions began as freestanding colleges of optometry.

Our independent colleges are reaching out to other health professions schools in their respective metropolitan areas to begin joint programs. An example is the New England College of Optometry, which is collaborating on an IPE program with Boston University’s School of Medicine, the Goldman School of Dentistry, the Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, and the Physician Assistant Program to provide joint education and training in both didactic and clinical settings.

In addition, fourth year clinical rotations at VA Hospitals are offered through every school and college of optometry. Here students work with multidisciplinary health teams comprised of medical specialists, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other disciplines.

The importance of interprofessional education in optometric education is a basic tenet of ASCO’s 2011 revised “Attributes of Graduates of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry” report. For example, graduates of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry are expected to:

  • have the ability to appropriately use all resources, including the use of ancillary personnel, intra- and interprofessional collaboration, co-management, and referral, in ensuring the best quality patient care;
  • manage their practices in a manner that is appropriate within the health care delivery system and that promotes patient access to eye and vision care;
  • have the ability to recognize personal limitations regarding optimal patient care and to work with the broader health care community in providing the best care possible;
  • have a commitment to work as an integral member of the larger interprofessional health care team to improve patient care outcomes;
  • have the ability to recognize and initiate the coordination of patient care requiring advanced medical, systemic, interprofessional, or specialty care;
  • have the ability to work in cooperation with those who receive care, those who provide care, and others who contribute to or support the delivery of prevention and health services.

Nationally, ASCO was the first “Supporting Organization” of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) a coalition of health professions education associations promoting interprofessional education and collaborative health care.

ASCO supports IPEC’s “Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice: 2016 Update,” which can guide curricula development at all health professions schools.

In August, 2013, ASCO conducted a survey of member schools to collect information on current practices in Interprofessional Education at schools and colleges of optometry in the United States. To see a presentation of the results given at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in November 2014, click here. To read about the results in ASCO’s journal, Optometric Education, click here. A follow-up survey conducted in 2015 provided information regarding the progress of IPE development at member schools over the past two years as well as assisted in the planning of ASCO’s Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Summit, held in February 2016. To read more about the Summit, click here.

Interprofessional education is the future of health professions education and optometry is well positioned to be at its forefront!


Additional IPE Resources

Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC)

Interprofessional Professionalism Collaborative

National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education 

Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education, Research and Practice

MedEdPORTAL icollaborative

Transforming Patient Care: Aligning Interprofessional Education with Clinical Practice Redesign (Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation)


IPE at our Schools