UL's Allied Health students get first-hand experience as they engage in internationally recommended Interprofessional Education at the on-campus Intermediate Care Facility

Interprofessional Education (IPE) is changing the way healthcare education is being provided. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified IPE, as an innovative strategy to address current complex challenges in healthcare. 

IPE is described by the WHO as students from two or more professions learning from, with, and about each other to enable effective collaboration and to improve health outcomes. IPE prepares graduates to work collaboratively in healthcare teams and is now advocated by the WHO as a necessary step in the training of a future health workforce, which is ready for collaborative practice.

University of Limerick School of Allied Health features IPE as a key step in improving care to patients with complex needs and promoting sustainable healthcare systems. 

It is evidenced throughout teaching, practice education placements and research. The UL School of Allied Health has received a major, national level, DELTA award for excellence in IPE in Irish Higher Education teaching. UL is leading Irish Higher Education Institutions in implementing practice-based IPE, where students work and learn together at the same site. Innovative collaborations between University of Limerick and UL Hospitals Group led to the development of the Intermediate Care Facility (ICF). This has afforded a unique IPE opportunity for UL students. 

Since its inception at the UL Arena in June 2020, the UL Hospitals Group ICF, a fully-staffed 68-bed hospital facility,  provided care to patients, fit for discharge from acute hospitals, who may benefit from additional rehabilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Physiotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Human Nutrition & Dietetics students from the School of Allied Health were co-located for practice placements in the ICF. 


Health and Social Care Professionals headed by Fiona Steed (Group Lead, Allied Health, UL Hospitals) and UL Practice Tutors from the School of Allied Health, worked collaboratively to facilitate student placements. Yvonne Young (Nursing Lead at the ICF) supported UL Nursing and Medicine students working as Health Care Assistants and with Patient Advocacy Liaison Services (PALS) to engage with on-site IPE. 

Professor Kerstin Mey, President of the University of Limerick also contributed to this collaborative effort, elevating the status of IPE across campus. Funding for an Interprofessional Practice Tutor was provided through the UL Meitheal Project, which advances university-community engagement. The post of Interprofessional Practice Tutor is the first of its kind within Irish Higher Education, and a pioneering role internationally. 

Jimmy Burke, UL Interprofessional Practice Tutor, has facilitated practice-based IPE on-site and on-line for students at the ICF. 

The response of students to their interprofessional learning experience at the ICF has been extremely positive. 

Students evidenced their new understandings through presentations to the ICF care team, where one student stated that this interprofessional, collaborative approach practiced in the ICF, “This is our new baseline”. 

Practice-based IPE is supported by recent research to be effective in improving students understanding of roles within the healthcare team, enhancing interprofessional communication and providing experience of interprofessional collaboration. It is widely accepted that this team-orientated, collaborative approach to patient care improves patient outcomes. 


UL has evidenced its continuing commitment to IPE with the establishment of an IPE Module Co-Ordinator, Dr Anne Griffin, (Lecturer in Nutrition & Dietetics) at the School of Allied Health. UL is now positioned to lead the field internationally in IPE research with a comprehensive research study into the novel ICF being led by Dr Judi Pettigrew (Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy) from the UL School of Allied Health. A significant quote relating to the COVID-19 era is from Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who stated “Ultimately, the greatest lesson that COVID-19 can teach humanity is that we are all in this together.” 

This sentiment is reflected in the collaboration to support the ICF and a new baseline for Interprofessional Education at UL. The following responses illustrate the student experience of IPE in the ICF:
Nicole O’Callaghan, a MSc Speech & Language Therapy student said: “As an SLT student on my final placement, engaging in IPE in the ICF has been one of many highlights of my student experience. 

IPE not only reinforced my understanding of the importance of collaboration, but empowered me in adapting my practice to become more holistic and patient-centred”.

Ashley Booth, studying for an MSc in Occupational Therapy notes that “the collaborative assignments each week encouraged students of different allied health disciplines to work closely together and communicate with one another.

This improved not only our learning, but the care we were able to provide to patients.

Cormac O’Hanlon studying for a BSc in Physiotherapy said that he “found the IPE sessions very beneficial for my learning as they allowed me to develop new rapports with other Allied Health Professions and make the patient experience as holistic and collaborative as possible”.

Marguerite Corby who is studying for a MSc in Human Nutrition & Dietetics said that she “felt that it was a fantastic idea and ensured that all of the students had the ability to work and communicate as part of a multi-disciplinary team and take into consideration each other's roles in the care and treatment of the patients. I hope to take my experience from the ICF with me as I continue my placement in University Hospital Limerick and beyond and try and incorporate what I learned into everyday practice”. -  Andrew Carey