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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Recommendations from recent graduates in medicine, nursing and pharmacy on improving interprofessional education in university programs: a qualitative study

Conor Gilligan1*, Sue Outram1 and Tracy Levett-Jones2

Author Affiliations

1 University of Newcastle, Faculty of Health, School of Medicine and Public Health, Level 4 West HMRI Building, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia

2 University of Newcastle, Faculty of Health, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Richardson Wing, Callaghan Campus, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:52  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-52

Published: 18 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Interprofessional education (IPE) has been recognized as an innovative approach for the development of a collaborative, practice-ready health workforce, but is not used consistently in undergraduate health professional programs. We sought to explore the reflections of graduates on the IPE experiences they had during their undergraduate education and training. It was anticipated that having completed their pre-vocational education and spent up to two years working in a clinical environment, recent graduates would be well-placed to provide insights into the value of the IPE opportunities they had, and to suggest approaches for improving these opportunities in undergraduate programs.

Methods

This study was part of a larger research project (Interprofessional Education for the Quality use of Medicines; IPE for QuM) which used focus groups as part of an interpretive research design to inform other aspects of the research. Here, we report on focus groups with recent graduates recruited from area health services across Australia.

Results

Sixty-eight recent graduates working in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania participated in 12 focus group sessions. In this paper, we report on new graduates’ reflections on their experiences of IPE as part of their university degree, as well as their recommendations to improve interprofessional education before graduation. The new graduates were unanimous in valuing IPE from their current perspective of being in the health workforce. Most IPE experiences recalled were regarded as positive, but those valued most highly were experiences that involved genuine engagement and opportunities to interact with students in other professions working on a relevant problem. Clinical placement was a missed opportunity with few structured meaningful interprofessional learning experiences. Surprisingly there was little social contact between professions in universities even when programs were co-located, thus reinforcing professional silos.

Conclusions

The graduates provided many insightful reflections about the value of university-based IPE and their preparedness for clinical practice. Although universally acclaimed as a "good idea" there is much room for improvement. We put forward a set of suggestions to improve IPE and guide the design of future IPE efforts.