A Guide for Interprofessional Collaboration Edited by Aidyn Iachini, Laura Bronstein, and Elizabeth Mellin

Part III: Maximizing Interprofessional Collaboration

11. Personal Characteristics: Relationship Building (Doug: Relationships are so important that this may be the most valuable chapter in the book.)

  • Social work is relational at its core. Establishment of rapport is the most powerful therapeutic intervention. This chapter serves as a guide for building relationships and trust with people who have different professions. There are seven tips and each features one or more activities you can try to help with your relationship skills.
  • Some key behaviors involve active listening, the effective use of body language, showing respect, proper tone of voice, and injecting humor about yourself or the current situation. You need to ask questions to make sure you understand and paraphrasing will let the other person know if you understand them or not. Self-awareness is essential. See yourself as a member of a team, not your discipline. Find time for face-to-face meetings. Be assertive when necessary and stay calm when stressful conditions arise.

12. Professional Roles: Knowledge and Understanding of Context

  • A social worker’s professional identity is initially acquired via formal education. Be sure to review the social workers code of ethics and comparable documents for other professionals you deal with. On the job review your job description and those of the people you work with. See were everyone is on the organization chart. Find out what collaborations are expected and try to become indispensable as you stay visible. Proactively promote your services and make sure the people you collaborate with understand what social workers do.
  • As you work strive to gain an understanding of the roles, strengths, and limitation of others. Promote reflection and record what comes of it. Influence is an important skill as some professionals prefer autonomy to collaboration. Check out my summary of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Social workers are often leaders of collaborative teams. Be sure to include leadership skills in your professional development efforts.

13. The Importance of a History of Collaboration: Promoting Interprofessional Education

  • You should start developing a history of collaboration during your formal training and many institutions now require this. You should read the ethics and values statements of the other professions you work with and compare them to your own. This chapter contains six exercises to help you build your understanding of hows professions collaborate. For some you will need to work with someone from another profession.
  • A standard communication tool used by health care professionals is the SBAR. As you use it you record the situation, background information, your assessment of the primary problem, and you current recommendation to treat the problem.

14. Structural Characteristics

  • The three primary influences here are Time, Space, and Administrative Support. This chapter includes tips, case studies, the voices of a practitioners, and tools for each.
  • Time: Start by tracking how you spend your time to see if it can be better spent. Look for opportunities to delegate some of what you do to others like college students. Be an advocate for collaboration with your supervisor who may be able to help.
  • Space: You need somewhere to meet with your collaborators. Be sure that the space available is efficiently scheduled. Look at community settings where space is shared. Hospitals, schools, libraries, recreation centers, and churches are all possibilities. Be creative. Consider outdoor settings and Zoom meetings.
  • Administrative support: This is vital. You may have to demonstrate the potential impact of collaboration if your supervisor doesn’t already see the value and importance. There is advice here that may help.

Aidyn Iachini, Laura Bronstein, and Elizabeth Mellin

  • Laura is dean of the College of Community and Public Affairs, professor of social work, executive director of the Institute for Justice & Well-Being and Founding Director of Binghamton University’s Community Schools at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Her email is lbronst@binghamton.edu.
  • Elizabeth is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Leadership at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Her email is emellin@binghamton.edu.
  • Aidyn is a Professor and an Associate Dean of Research in the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina. You can follow her on Twitter @AidynIachini. Her email is IACHINI@mailbox.sc.edu.
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