Using Realist Evaluation to Understand What's Really Happening in Interprofessional Education and Practice: What Works, For Whom, in Which Circumstances, in What Respects and Why?

Monday, Jul 30, 2018, 9:45 am - 11:15 am

What happens when your ideas come to life in practice? Do you really know what works, for whom, in which circumstances, in what respects, and why? This workshop presents a realist evaluation approach to increasing understanding of how interprofessional programs/interventions work in practice.

Interprofessional programs are conceived in the minds of their designers who have expectations about how they are expected to work. However, implemented programs frequently morph in response to the complexities of real-world practice. The complex nature of interprofessional education (IPE) and interprofessional collaborative practice (IPCP) creates difficulties when attempting to establish impact through traditional approaches.  Such complexity is inherent for an activity that involves the interactions of varied professions, their interrelationships, and partnerships between educational and clinical organizations, and is further complicated by the layering of such educational collaborative activity into the complex context of clinical care (Reeves et al 2010).

The interprofessional community has been struggling with the identification of tools and methods to evaluate the impact of its interprofessional endeavours. Attempts to collate evidence on effectiveness have been hampered by heterogeneity in program design, delivery, objectives, program outcomes and methodological limitations (WHO, 2010). Although studies have reported positive outcomes, it has not been possible to draw general inferences about the effectiveness of IPE or IPCP through such traditional methods. Indeed consistent calls have been made for the adoption of new approaches that embrace the complex nature of IPE and IPCP (Barr et al, 2000; Cooper et al 2001; Hammick et al 2007; Davidson et al 2008).

This workshop provides opportunities for participants to consider and apply a theory-driven approach to program/intervention evaluation and program design or re-design. Participants will be provided with opportunities to uncover how their program was expected to work and how it actually works in practice, identifying contextual factors that may shape outcomes for different participants.

The workshop uses a mixture of short presentations, small group work, and real-life practice case studies.

  • Round table introductions and sharing experience and one personal goal for the workshop
  • Short discussion on traditional approaches to the evidence e.g. systematic review and where they leave us in knowing the impact of IPE /IPC – evaluating complex social interventions.
  • Participant group share: What do you really want to know about your interprofessional practice and education initiatives?

By the end of this workshop participants should be able to:

  • Identify the pattern of outcomes for the various players in their interprofessional initiative/program (what works, for whom)
  • Analyse in which circumstances the initiative/program may be successful or not
  • Apply an approach to examine how their program works in practice

Interprofessional Continuing Education

This activity has been planned and implemented by the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education. In support of improving patient care, the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to provide continuing education for the healthcare team. The intent is to provide accreditation and continuing education credit for this workshop. For questions regarding continuing education, please email