Perceptions of Interprofessional Education Through the Eyes of Students: A Thematic Analysis

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Discussion surrounding interprofessional education (IPE) among graduate and professional health sciences students is beginning to appear more frequently in academic journals, government reports, and health care reform recommendations. Recommendations from an international conference cited in the Lancet provide an interesting overview from world leaders about interprofessional care and its ability to improve health system performance. Since 1995, the Academic Health Sciences Center (AHSC) at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has shown the value of IPE and continues to do so through the Interprofessional Education Program (IPEP). In this study, a focus group was conducted in fall 2014 to collect qualitative data on AHSC students’ perceptions of IPE and interprofessional training at ETSU. Two out of five AHSC colleges were represented by a total of four focus group participants. These participants included students from the Colleges of Public Health and Medicine, as well as a student from the Department of Psychology and one medical resident. Through use of a semi-structured interview procedure, a skilled facilitator asked participants to describe their academic experiences related to IPE at ETSU. A series of open-ended questions were presented in order to determine the general perceptions, attitudes, barriers, and beliefs of health science students regarding interprofessional experiences. The focus group was audio- and video- recorded, and the recordings were transcribed by the author. Four study staff members met and conducted separate thematic analyses to determine consensus on overarching themes from transcriptions. Themes identified through these analyses included: 1) specific emphasis on the importance of communication; 2) respect for the academic rigor of other health profession programs; 3) the desire for more IPE opportunities; and 4) having a positive and open mind was a characteristic considered impactful interprofessional education. The implications of these findings and considerations for methodological improvements will be discussed.


Johnson City, TN

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