Open Access Open Badges Research article

Norwegian nursing and medical students’ perception of interprofessional teamwork: a qualitative study

Ingunn Aase1*, Britt Sæthre Hansen2 and Karina Aase1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Studies, University of Stavanger, Stavanger N-4036, Norway

2 Department of Health Studies, University of Stavanger and Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger N-4036, Norway

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:170  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-170

Published: 14 August 2014



Little is known about the ways in which nursing and medical students perceive and understand their roles in interprofessional teamwork. A 2010 report by the World Health Organization highlights the importance of students’ understanding of teamwork in healthcare, and their ability to be effective team players. This study aims at describing nursing and medical students’ perceptions of interprofessional teamwork, focusing on experiences and recommendations that can be used to guide future educational efforts.


The study uses a qualitative research design. Data were collected from four focus group interviews: two homogenous groups (one with medical students, one with nursing students) and two mixed groups (medical and nursing students).


The results show that traditional patterns of professional role perception still prevail and strongly influence students’ professional attitudes about taking responsibility and sharing responsibility across disciplinary and professional boundaries. It was found that many students had experienced group cultures detrimental to team work. Focusing on clinical training, the study found a substantial variation in perception with regard to the different arenas for interprofessional teamwork, ranging from arenas with collaborative learning to arenas characterized by distrust, confrontation, disrespect and hierarchical structure.


This study underlines the importance of a stronger focus on interprofessional teamwork in health care education, particularly in clinical training. The study results suggest that the daily rounds and pre-visit “huddles,” or alternatively psychiatric wards, offer arenas suitable for interprofessional training, in keeping with the students’ assessments and criteria proposed in previous studies.

Interprofessional teamwork; Interprofessional education; Professional role; Content analysis; Healthcare; Students’ perceptions