This paper reflects on the challenges and benefits of multidimensional collaboration in an action research study to evaluate and improve preoperative education for patients awaiting colorectal surgery. Three cycles of planning, acting,observing and reflecting were designed to evaluate practice and implement change in this interactive setting, calling for specific and distinct collaborations. Data collection includes: observing educational interactions; administering patient evaluation questionnaires; interviewing healthcare staff, patients and carers; patient and carer focus groups; and examining written and audiovisual educational materials. The study revolves around and depends on multi-dimensional collaborations. Reflecting on these collaborations highlights the diversity of perspectives held by all those engaged in the study and enhances the action research lessons. Successfully maintaining the collaborations recognises the need for negotiation, inclusivity, comprehension, brokerage,and problem-solving. Managing the potential tensions is crucial to the successful implementation of changes introduced to practice and thus has important implications for patients’ well-being. This paper describes the experiences from an action research project involving new and specific collaborations, focusing on a particular healthcare setting. It exemplifies the challenges of the collaborative action research process and examines how both researchers and practitioners might reflect on the translation of theory into educational practices within a hospital colorectal department. Despite its context-specific features, the reflections on the types of challenges faced and lessons learned provide implications for action researchers in diverse healthcare settings across the world.