Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Sep 01, 2015
Tagged with: Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Collaboration is a dynamic, creative, and interconnected process. My walking program has been built upon collaboration. From the beginning, I have combined approaches from a wide range of Health, Medical, Rehabilitation, and Fitness disciplines. I have used methods from physical therapy, yoga, dance, and functional movement to support my overall fitness and walking efforts. I have brought together professionals to contribute their knowledge and expertise in the advancement of my efforts to walk device-free. I engage professionals to problem-solve and develop new targeted strategies to improve my strength, flexibility, and other aspects of mobility.

Working together in a collaborative way, multiple professionals have contributed knowledge and strategies to help me achieve my goal of walking completely device free. Key partners in this process have always been my trainers. In January of 2015, I transitioned to a new team of three trainers. One of these trainers is Nick Elia. **

Nick is studying to be a Nurse. Knowing that I was likely one of Nick’s first clients with Spastic Cerebral Palsy, I was “geared up” to educate and dispel any potential misconceptions he might have about my disability. From our first meeting, however, I knew that Nick and I would be able to successfully work together. Nick displayed a true openness and a genuine respect for me. I knew quickly that Nick possessed the complementary skills and foundations in fitness that I needed.

From our very first meeting, he conveyed agreement to pursue my overall goals and plan. He had the required passion for health and fitness I needed. I also knew that he understood and valued active engagement with his clients. He actively used the principles of person-centered care in our work. Person-centered care is based on the premise that each individual is unique, and that all care and programming should be based on each person’s strengths, interests, needs, and choices. [i]

Principles of person-centered care in fitness include:

  1. Treating people with dignity and respect,
  2. Offering coordinated and personalized support, and
  3. Supporting people to recognize and develop their own strengths and abilities.When I engage any professional to become a member of my medical, health, or fitness team, the initial step is to establish a rapport and build the groundwork for interdisciplinary collaboration. I define my goals as a client, share examples of exercises that have shown results, and try to share information that will describe my current level of ability, and what I am working toward. I also try to outline why my goal of walking device free is so important. In addition to gaining my trainer’s emotional buy-in and commitment, the information I share helps them develop strategies and techniques that will support my goal. Interdisciplinary collaboration is an academic term which defines a process of how different professionals work together and forge agreements. This reference describes my experience, “Interdisciplinary collaboration crosses the boundaries of disciplines and professions and forms a team with an agenda of practical problem-solving. The established team has a mutual interest of creating new knowledge.” [ii]
  4. Effective interdisciplinary collaboration requires developing a common vocabulary and encouraging a relationship that results in active problem-solving between the client and trainer. I have learned how to engage all of my trainers in verbal problem-solving. I ask several questions during my training sessions. Examples of questions include: “What should happen during this exercise?” “What should I feel?” “Why?” “Where on my leg should I be feeling the effect of the exercise?”
  5. My trainers in turn have learned how to prompt me about where and when to expect a specific physical response. The dialogue and problem-solving helps me to bridge gaps that happen when typical approaches do not quite work out as expected — often due to spasticity, muscle fatigue, or other factors related to my disability.
  6. We are problem-solving as we are talking. Verbal problem-solving is one technique that I used to invite Nick to engage in active conversation with me. I also repeatedly shared the vision I have about walking without assistive devices full-time. I shared other effective methods that have shown positive results. See: Stepping in the Right Direction.

I similarly shared what has not worked during the nine years that I have been involved with fitness professionals. I highlight both the challenges and the progress in my journey to walk without assistive devices. I have asked my newest trainer, Nick Elia, to now share his thoughts about our initial work together.

[i] Fazio, Sam. “The Individual Is the Core-And Key-To Person-Centered Care.” Generations. American Society of Aging. 2013.

[ii] Derry, S. J., Schunn, C. D., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (Eds.). (2005). Interdisciplinary Collaboration: An Emerging Cognitive Science. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Author: Kerry



  • bobl07

    Outstanding piece on the importance of personal trainers and health care professionals. It is so important to set goals and follow through with them. Healthcare professionals can help keep you focused. They play an important role for anyone wanting to achieve and succeed with physical activity development.

  • Kerry Wiley

    Thank you for your comments! I endorse person-centered approaches because the premise is individual preferences, needs, and choices are at the heart of the planning Here is a great resource on the topic of person-centered planning — http://www.pacer.org/transition/learning-center/independent-community-living/person-centered.asp. The website offers links to some other resources and tools.

  • Kerry Wiley

    Thank you for your comments! I endorse person-centered approaches because the premise is individual preferences, needs, and choices are at the heart of the planning . Here is a great resource on the topic of person-centered planning — http://www.pacer.org/transitio…. The website offers links to some other resources and tools.