Lesson 12: Diversity Within Canada’s Substance Use Workforce—The Need for Interprofessional Collaboration

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This is the final lesson in the first course of the Certificate for Interprofessional Substance Use Practice. This lesson focuses on the diversity of the substance use workforce in Canada and the need for interprofessional collaboration.

A Systems Approach to Substance Use in Canada: Recommendations for a National Treatment Strategy (2008) suggested that “one of the major challenges for people seeking help is the need to navigate different systems of services and supports that are not well co-ordinated and that do not communicate effectively with each other” (p. 10). Although it is recognized that “pockets of excellent collaboration exist, a comprehensive and better-integrated response is needed to effectively address people’s needs and wants regarding the broad range of risks and harms they experience” (p. 10). The document continues by advocating for collaboration at all levels:

A person’s journey through the pathways should be facilitated by collaboration between providers of distinct kinds of services and supports. Collaboration should occur both at the clinical level (e.g., through shared service protocols between different providers) and at the administrative and organizational levels (e.g., through partnerships and inter-agency agreements), and should always include the person seeking help (p. 15).

Interprofessional collaboration has the potential to improve professional practice, positively affect patient/client care, and improve health care outcomes (Zwarenstien, Goldman, & Reeves, 2009). However, the practice of interprofessional collaboration is challenging. Some of the explanations for poor interprofessional relationships include the lack of explicit, appropriate task and role definitions; the absence of clear leadership; insufficient time for team building; the “us-and-them” effects of professional socialization; frustration created by power and status differentials; and the vertical management structures for each profession (Zwarenstein & Reeves, 2006, p. 47).

Fortunately, some indicators suggest that we may be getting better at interprofessional collaboration.


Lesson 12 addresses the following three topics:

  • Evidence basis for interprofessional collaboration
  • System of care: Moving interprofessional collaboration forward
  • CCSA competencies and interprofessional collaboration

Learning Outcomes

After you complete this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Influence the interprofessional nature of Canada’s substance abuse workforce.
  • Support interprofessional collaboration to enhance the success of program planning and treatment outcome with respect to problematic substance use treatment and prevention.


McLellan, A. T. (2006). What we need is a system: Creating a responsive and effective substance abuse treatment system. In W. Miller & K. Carroll (Eds.), Rethinking substance abuse: What the science shows, and what we should do about it (pp. 275–292). New York, NY: Guildford Press.

Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (CIHC) (2010). A national interprofessional competency framework. Vancouver, BC: UBC, Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative College of Health Disciplines.

Available Through TRU library

Gustafson, D., Quanbeck, A., Robinson, J., Ford, J., Pulvermacher, A., French, M., McConnell, K., Batalden, P., Hoffman, K., & McCarty, D. (2013). Which elements of improvement collaboratives are most effective? A cluster-randomized trial. Addiction, 108(6), 1145–1157.

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). (2013). Developing and sustaining interprofessional health care: Optimizing patient, organizational and system outcomes. Toronto, ON: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Reeves, S., Perrier, L., Goldman, J., Freeth, D., & Zwarenstein, M. (2013). Interprofessional education: Effects on professional practice and healthcare outcomes (update). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, DOI: 10.1002/14651858.C002213.pub3

Zwarenstein, M., & Reeves, S. (2006). Knowledge translation and interprofessional collaboration: Where the rubber of evidence-based care hits the road of teamwork. The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 26, 46–54.

Zwarenstein, M., Goldman, J., & Reeves, S. (2009). Interprofessional collaboration: Effects of practice-based interventions on professional practice and healthcare outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, Art. No.: CD000072. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000072.pub2.

Activity Checklist

Following is a checklist of the learning activities you will be completing in Unit 1. You may find it useful for planning your work.

✔ Activity

☐ Activity 1: Evidence basis for interprofessional collaboration

☐ Activity 2: System of care: Moving interprofessional collaboration forward

☐ Activity 3: CCSA competencies and interprofessional collaboration