Collaborative Practice

  • Collaborative practice is a process for communication and decision-making that enables the separate and shared knowledge and skills of healthcare providers to synergistically influence the patient care provided.1
  • Collaborative practice in healthcare occurs when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive services by working with patients, their families, caregivers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings.2
  • Collaborative practice involves respecting patients, families, caregivers, and each healthcare provider (clinical and non-clinical) for their unique skills and ideas. The quality of patient care increases when everyone’s voice is heard. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.3

Interdisciplinary practice is defined as a “dynamic process involving two or more healthcare providers with complementary backgrounds and skills, sharing common health goals and exercising concerted physical and mental effort in assessing, planning, or evaluating patient care. This is accomplished through interdependent collaboration, open communication and shared decision-making. This in turn generates value-added patient, organizational and staff outcomes”.4 An interdisciplinary approach analyzes, synthesizes and harmonizes links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.5

Interprofessional collaboration is the process of developing and maintaining effective interprofessional working relationships with learners, practitioners, patients, clients, families and communities to enable optimal health outcomes. Foundational elements of collaboration include respect, trust, shared decision making, and partnerships.6

Collaborative Care Competencies
These competencies have been highlighted by AHS to illustrate the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values deemed essential for collaborative practice:

1. Patient and family centred care – Healthcare providers seek out, work with, and value, the patient, their family and caregivers as partners in designing and carrying out care services.

2. Role clarification – Healthcare providers understand their own role and the roles of others, and apply this knowledge to support patients in setting and achieving their goals.

3. Team functioning – Healthcare providers have a solid understanding of the principles of team work. They know and support processes to foster collaboration among all team members.

4. Collaborative leadership – Healthcare providers understand and apply a leadership style that supports collaborative practice.

5. Communication – Healthcare providers talk with each other and work together in a collaborative, open and responsible way.

6. Conflict resolution – Healthcare providers work to engage those involved, including the patient and family, if disputes arise. This is done in a positive and proactive manner.6


  1. Adapted from Way, Jones & Busing, 2000
  2. World Health Organization [WHO], 2010, p. 13
  3. AHS Insite (staff login required):
    Collaborative Practice Principles Supporting Patient and Family Centred Care
    Overview of the Health Professions Act of Alberta: Implications for Clinical Practice
  4. Xyrichs A, Ream E: Teamwork: a concept analysis, J Adv Nursing 2008, 61:232-241
  5. Choi BC, Pak AW: Multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in health research, services, education and policy, Clin Invest Med 2008 Dec, 29(6):351-64
  6. National Interprofessional Competency Framework: Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative, 2010