Relationship building key to interprofessional practice


A pharmacist-physician team shows how to change oppositional relationships into partnerships.


A dynamic Tennessean duo of a family physician and a pharmacist touted the value of cross-discipline communication and unity in a presentation about interprofessional practice during the general session at the annual conference of the American Pharmacists Association in San Diego, Calif.

Reid Blackwelder, MD, FAAFP, board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, and L. Brian Cross, PharmD, BCACP, CDE, associate professor and vice chair with the Gatton College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University, urged pharmacists to reach past their “silos” and create better partnerships with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers.

 “It’s about relationships,” said Blackwelder, who works with Cross at East Tennessee State University in Kingston, Tenn. “Miscommunication is super easy.”

 Indeed, Cross said, “too often there are oppositional relationships from the beginning. It is vitally important to narrow the divide, to get closer to one another.”

What to do?

“The whole key is how can we talk more readily and respectfully to each other about what we do to help patients,” Blackwelder said.

He urged pharmacists to assume that others have good intentions instead of falling into antagonistic postures like American politicians do. When people fail to trust each other’s intentions, he said, “it’s all about how I disagree with you, I obviously don’t like you, and we don’t like each other.”

 Instead, he said, “at the moment when you get to cross-purposes, you can assume good intent and get back to patient-centeredness. We’re here to help patients most of all.”

Cross said the medical industry must move to a model where “everybody talks to one another at all times, everybody has access to all information at all times.”

But how do we get there?

“We should be training with each other, not in silos of nursing and pharmacy,” he said. “You will develop relationships because you have to. When you have relationships with people, it’s really hard to be mean to them.”

To that end, Cross said East Tennessee University will create two-year learning teams to unite students from disciplines like medicine, pharmacy, and nursing. “If silos are minimized during training, maybe they won’t be so obvious in price,” he says. “Collaboration will be the baseline instead of the exception.”

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