Perceptions versus reality: a qualitative study of students' expectations and experiences of interprofessional education

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Submitted by National Center... on Mar 14, 2014 - 11:14am CDT


Interprofessional education (IPE) has been gaining traction in post-secondary institutions. Many schools introduce IPE early to their health professional students, often in the context of a large-scale event in Year 1. This paper presents findings from a study undertaken by a medical student (a classmate of the research participants) and details Year 1 students' initial perceptions of IPE.


Using an exploratory case study approach, eight focus groups of medical, pharmacy, dental, occupational therapy and social work students were gathered over 2 years (2007 and 2008). All participants had attended an IPE event delivered to nearly 1200 students each year. All data were analysed using an inductive thematic approach.


The data indicated that, although students were generally positive towards IPE, many expressed dissatisfaction with the way their initial IPE event had been implemented. In particular, students felt that delivering IPE as a large-scale activity limited the amount of meaningful interprofessional interaction that could be achieved. A number of students also expressed concern about the 'artificial' nature of some of their interprofessional activities, which again limited their value. Students went on to offer various suggestions to improve their first exposure to IPE.


Our findings reinforce the notion that students value IPE, but offer some new insights into how introductory IPE programming might be organised. Although large-scale activities can provide IPE activities to a wide range of students, which is advantageous from a specifically administrative perspective, students' opinions reveal that this form of IPE involves a number of challenges in their initial engagement with concepts of interprofessional teamwork and collaboration.

© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2011.

PubMed URL:

Rosenfield, Daniel
Oandasan, Ivy
Reeves, Scott
Journal Citation: 
Medical Education. 45(5):471-7, 2011 May.