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An examination of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of physical therapy students toward interprofessional experiences in the clinical education setting: a mixed method study


Background: Interprofessional education is required to develop entry-level doctorate physical therapists who are immediately ready for collaborative practice and who can deliver quality, patient-centered care. Insight into student perceptions of interprofessional experiences in clinical settings will inform pedagogical strategies for classroom/clinical education and assist in the application of core competencies. This convergent parallel mixed-method study explored the behaviors, beliefs and attitudes of first year physical therapy students toward interprofessional experiences during clinical clerkships.

Methods/Methodology: Using the Interprofessional Socializing and Valuing Scale (ISVS) (n=33), we measured the degree to which transformative learning took place following an 8-week clinical rotation, as evidenced by self-report changed behaviors, beliefs and attitudes. After subjects completed their clinical rotation in either an acute care or outpatient facility, we conducted semi-structured interviews (n=26). We used a general inductive approach and thematic content analysis to understand students' perceptions of learning outcomes and impact of interprofessional experiences in the clinical setting.

Results: A repeated measures ANOVA showed no statistical differences (p<0.05) between pre- and post-test scores within or between groups using the ISVS scale. However, thematic content analysis of the qualitative data revealed that learners perceived interprofessional experiences to be beneficial in helping them understand the importance of: establishing trusting relationships, developing practice reflexivity and good communication. Additionally students reported that these learning outcomes assisted them in: developing their professional identity, understanding the "whole" patient and recognizing the need for referral practice. The context and nature of the interprofessional experiences can be categorized as four forms of interprofessional work (networking, coordination, collaboration and team-based work).

Conclusions: Acute care clinical settings offered the most diverse and frequent opportunities for interprofessional experiences. Understanding the four forms of interprofessional work as described by students during their clinical clerkships, may assist students' in recognizing and valuing interprofessional experiences. Additionally faculty development around the forms of IP work may assist in the creation of learning objectives and assessment tools for a more evidenced-based clinical education framework within physical therapy.

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