The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

Guest Editorial Free

The Evolution of Interprofessional Continuing Education

Pamela S. Dickerson, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN

Interest in interprofessional continuing education has continued to grow over the past several decades. In the 1970s, the concept of continuing education was focused primarily on updating individual groups of health care professionals on knowledge and skills needed to keep them safe in their practice. Consistent with undergraduate and graduate educational programs, continuing education was profession specific and siloed. As care became more complex and new technologies emerged, looking at team-based care in order to improve outcomes became more important. With that shift began a gradual transition from entirely single-profession continuing education to the incorporation of interprofessional continuing education in relevant situations.

The Journal of Interprofessional Care was published beginning in 1992. This publication, initially known as Holistic Medicine, focuses on peer-reviewed articles addressing global innovations and research in interprofessional practice (Journal of Interprofessional Care, 2019). Institute of Medicine reports dating to 1999 have emphasized the need for better collaboration among health care providers, focusing on issues related to patient safety, quality of care, and teamwork (Institute of Medicine, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2015). In 2011, the Interprofessional Education Collaborative published core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice, which were updated in 2016. Despite these reports, there are still fragmented approaches to continuing education in cases where interprofessional education would better meet needs of learners and patients.

The uniprofessional process of developing one activity for various professional groups involved meeting individual accreditation criteria, which often resulted in fragmented content that did not focus on teams, teamwork, and true interprofessional collaborative practice. To address that issue, the concept of joint accreditation for continuing education providers was first addressed in the late 1990s by three accrediting bodies: the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Over several years, key stakeholders worked to develop congruent terminology and criteria, enabling organizations to have one accreditation focused on the ability of health care providers from these three professions to learn from, with, and about each other. Outcomes related to system and/or patient care improvements are a key expectation of joint accreditation. The first two providers achieved joint accreditation in 2010. As of this writing, 84 organizations hold joint accreditation ( Seven professions now participate in the joint accreditation process (nursing, medicine, pharmacy, physician assistant, optometry, psychology, and social work).

Today, interprofessional education is incorporated in undergraduate and graduate curricula, creating an opportunity and a strong incentive for us to continue this integration in the world of professional development. Certainly, there are situations where uniprofessional education and accreditation are and will continue to be warranted. However, in an increasingly complex health care environment, we must focus more than ever on improving teams and team practice. Our patients' lives depend on it!


  • Institute of Medicine. (1999). To err is human: Building a safer health system. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Institute of Medicine. (2001). Crossing the quality chasm: A new health system for the 21st century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Institute of Medicine. (2003). Health professions education: A bridge to quality. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Institute of Medicine. (2015). Measuring the impact of interprofessional education on collaborative practice and patient outcomes. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Interprofessional Education Collaborative. (2016). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: 2016 update. Washington, DC: Author.
  • Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel. (2011). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: Report of an expert panel. Washington, DC: Interprofessional Education Collaborative.
  • Journal of Interprofessional Care. (2019). Aims and scope. Retrieved from

Dr. Dickerson is Director of Professional Development, Montana Nurses Association, Westerville, Ohio. Dr. Dickerson is also a Commissioner with the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation for Nursing Continuing Professional Development. Opinions are her own and not those of the Commission unless specifically noted.

The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Pamela S. Dickerson, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, Director of Professional Development, Montana Nurses Association, 409 South Spring Road, Westerville, OH 43081; e-mail:


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