Primary Health Care Research & Development


Rural interprofessional primary health care team development and sustainability: establishing a research agenda

Charmaine M. McPhersona1 c1 and Elizabeth A. McGibbona1

a1 Associate Professor, School of Nursing, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada


Primary health care (PHC) plays a pivotal role in health system reform locally and globally. The use of well functioning interprofessional primary health care (IPHC) teams is recognized as a key strategy in widespread health system reform across global, national, and provincial jurisdictions. IPHC teams contribute to the improvement of the health and well being of the population. These teams engage in issues that are a priority for citizens, such as: providing good evidence-based care; supporting the efforts of individuals, families, and communities in leading healthy lives; actively and deliberatively involving citizens in decisions affecting their health and health care system; and addressing the systemic social, economic, and political causes of health disparities, such as poverty, violence, and rural isolation. Many jurisdictions have begun to experiment with and implement major changes in the delivery of PHC. This has required that health care managers and practitioners reconsider the ways in which they have traditionally worked. However, although many innovative PHC services were developed, the notion of how to best develop and sustain the service delivery team itself and within what contexts could have used more deliberate attention. There are no documented best practices for rural IPHC team development and sustainability in the scholarly literature. This paper presents the results of a literature review, including the empirical and conceptual evidence regarding team development, team sustainability, and the role of rural context in IPHC team development. An argument for advancing PHC research that focuses on rural IPHC team development and sustainability is posited.

(Received October 21 2009)

(Accepted March 15 2010)

(Online publication June 22 2010)

Key words

  • context;
  • interprofessional team development;
  • interprofessional team sustainability;
  • primary health care research;
  • primary health care renewal;
  • rural primary health care


c1 Correspondence to: Charmaine M. McPherson, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Email: