Toronto Rehab leads the way for teamwork in patient care


Toronto Rehab is leading the way in developing Interprofessional Education (IPE) strategies to promote collaboration, teamwork and communication among health-care disciplines with the goal to improve the quality of patient care.

“Effective health care is critical to Canadians and must meet the needs of the patient. Patients have told us that they want their health-care team to work effectively together and this includes strong collaboration, without duplication, between members of the interprofessional team,” says Lynne Sinclair, Toronto Rehab’s Inter-Professional Education Leader.

Toronto Rehab is the city’s first teaching hospital to host an interprofessional clinical placement for students studying nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, social work, and speech language pathology. Medical students will have the opportunity to be involved in the near future. The idea is to engage future health-care professionals in learning with, from and about one another at the undergraduate and graduate levels so they can work effectively in teams when they graduate and enter the workforce.

University of Toronto (U of T) students were given the chance to participate in interprofesional placements in Toronto Rehab’s Geriatric Day Hospital, part of the Geriatric Rehabilitation Program. The pilot project gave students from six health-care disciplines the unique opportunity to develop an increased understanding of the expertise that each discipline offers to the management of health problems and how to work effectively as a member of a health-care team. “I think that the IPE experience is a must for all students in the health-care field because client-centred care needs interprofessional care and it needs to start with the students,” says Joanna Ciardullo, University of Toronto, first year student, Occupational Therapy.

Before students began their placements at Toronto Rehab, they participated in three university-based, orientation/preparation tutorial sessions. Faculty tutors facilitated these sessions to provide the opportunity to learn about scopes of practice, understand team roles and team dynamics and to discuss conflict resolution. Once students were involved in their clinical placement, they continued to meet as a group in weekly tutorials discussing patient cases and patient care themes. Finally, the students led a group presentation to Toronto Rehab clinicians about successful team building and the patient from an interprofessional perspective.

Toronto Rehab is committed to being a role model in interprofessional education. In September 2003, Toronto Rehab created Sinclair’s positionÑInter-Professional Education Leader (IPEL)Ñ employing her with a mandate to enhance, support and initiate the integration of education scholarship into practice. Using innovative educational models, principles and best practices, Sinclair works with others in Professional Practice and clinical programs to develop curricula for continuing interprofessional education in rehabilitation and complex continuing care.

“Rehabilitation is a team approach to restoring lives changed by life-altering injury or illness,” says Sinclair. “Toronto Rehab is one of the best places to lead the practice and research of interprofessional education as it is a rehab setting with members of all health-care disciplines on its teams and students from departments at U of T and 40 other teaching institutions.”

Universities outside of Ontario already have well-developed practice-based interprofessional educational programming like the mandatory IPE course for all health-care discipline students at the University of Alberta. The call for best practice and evaluation research into interprofessional education of both students and clinicians is, however, growing in Ontario.

The provincial Liberal’s plan for better health care promises to deliver better care through family health teams. The government’s goal is to establish at least 150 family health teams across the province, while Health Canada is increasing its support of IPE research with its Interprofessional Education for Collaborative Patient-Centred Practice initiative and is expected to announce $30 million in funding this fall.

“Canada is lagging behind international IPE leaders in the UK and U.S.A. Ontario needs to quickly develop IPE initiatives similar to Alberta and B.C.’s well-developed IPE education programs to catch up. Toronto Rehab, in partnership with the University of Toronto, is well-situated to expand and lead the knowledge base of practice-based IPE in Ontario,” says Sinclair.

For further information on IPE, please visit the U of T website: Correspondence may be directed to Lynne Sinclair at: