Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice


Click here to reach ASCO’s open-access “IPECP Toolkit: A Guide to Effective Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Experiences in Optometric Education.”


Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as members of the collaborative practice team. This is a key step in moving health systems from fragmentation to a position of strength. (Source: World Health Organization 2010)

Optometry is an integral component of the health care team, and collaborative education and practice is growing within the schools and colleges of optometry. Of ASCO’s schools and colleges of optometry in the continental US and Puerto Rico, 20 are currently components of a multi-disciplinary university or health professions-specific campus. Two such institutions began as freestanding colleges of optometry. Our schools participate in interprofessional education in collaboration with more than fifteen other health professions. In addition, fourth-year clinical rotations at VA Hospitals offer residents the opportunity to work with multidisciplinary health teams comprised of medical specialists, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other disciplines.

The importance of interprofessional education in optometric education is a basic tenet of ASCO’s 2011 revised “Attributes of Graduates of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry” report. For example, graduates of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry are expected to:

  • have the ability to appropriately use all resources, including the use of ancillary personnel, intra- and interprofessional collaboration, co-management, and referral, in ensuring the best quality patient care;
  • manage their practices in a manner that is appropriate within the health care delivery system and that promotes patient access to eye and vision care;
  • have the ability to recognize personal limitations regarding optimal patient care and to work with the broader health care community in providing the best care possible;
  • have a commitment to work as an integral member of the larger interprofessional health care team to improve patient care outcomes;
  • have the ability to recognize and initiate the coordination of patient care requiring advanced medical, systemic, interprofessional, or specialty care;
  • have the ability to work in cooperation with those who receive care, those who provide care, and others who contribute to or support the delivery of prevention and health services.

Nationally, ASCO was the first “Supporting Organization” of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) a coalition of health professions education associations promoting interprofessional education and collaborative health care.

ASCO supports IPEC’s “Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice: 2016 Update,” which can guide curricula development at all health professions schools.

In August 2013, ASCO conducted a survey of member schools to collect information on current practices in Interprofessional Education at schools and colleges of optometry in the United States. To see a presentation of the results given at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in November 2014, click here. To read about the results in ASCO’s journal, Optometric Education, click here. A follow-up survey conducted in 2015 provided information regarding the progress of IPE development at member schools over the past two years as well as assisted in the planning of ASCO’s Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Summit, held in February 2016. To read more about the Summit, click here.

In 2017, ASCO’s Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice (IPECP) Committee developed a video, “Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice” in which educators and students share why IPECP is important in the education of future optometrists and how it improves the quality of patient care. The video can be reached here. In 2019, ASCO’s Board of Directors approved the establishment of a Special Interest Group (SIG) for faculty and administrators at the schools and colleges of optometry which facilitates the exchange of ideas among the schools and allows for greater collaboration on IPECP projects of joint interest. Also in 2019, the Board of Directors approved ASCO’s “IPECP Toolkit: A Guide to Effective Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Experiences in Optometric Education.” This open-access document is intended to serve as a guide for building, implementing and sustaining IPECP initiatives at optometric institutions.

Interprofessional education is the future of health professions education and optometry is well positioned to be at its forefront!

Additional IPE Resources

Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Special Interest Group (SIG)

American Interprofessional Health Collaborative

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Interprofessional Education/Interprofessional Practice (IPE/IPP)

Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (CIHC)

Centre for Advancement of Interprofessional Education

Centre for Interprofessional Education, University of Toronto

Collaborating Across Borders (CAB) Conference Series

Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

Health Professions Accreditators Collaborative (HPAC)

Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC)

Interprofessional Professionalism Collaborative

Jefferson Center for Interprofessional Education (JCIPE)

The Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation

MedEdPortal: The Journal of Teaching and Learning Resources, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Interprofessional Education

National Academies of Practice

National Academy of Practice in Optometry

National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education 

National Interprofessional Education Consortium (NIEC), American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Audiology Project (TAP)

World Health Organization: Transformative Education for Health Professionals

IPE at our Schools

ASCO’s “IPECP Toolkit: A Guide to Effective Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Experiences in Optometric Education” provides a variety of examples of didactic, clinical and extracurricular projects that are making a difference in the training of future optometrists. Go to section 3, “IPE Exemplar Projects from ASCO Member Institutions” to see how students are being prepared to team with other health care professionals to collaborate and create a shared understanding in order to provide the best treatment and health outcomes for their patients.