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Interprofessional Journal of Healthcare and Research

Abstract

Purpose: This qualitative study examines how engaging interprofessional student teams in global health mission trips affects critical thinking, interprofessional engagement, and collegiality in health profession students. Two pedagogical strategies that foster broad integrated knowledge and skills are the use of Interprofessional Education (IPE) and International service-learning (ISL) opportunities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)(2010), “Interprofessional education is a necessary step in preparing a ‘collaborative practice-ready’ health workforce that is better prepared to respond to local health needs.”

Methods/Discussion: Nineteen health profession students, 15 females, 2 males, from a regional university in the southern United States, representing a range of health education programs including nursing, biology/pre-med, and physical therapy, participated in two global engagement student learning 10-day health mission trips (Uganda and Bolivia). Both trips afforded students the opportunity to work with medically underserved and impoverished populations with limited resources. Students were organized daily into interprofessional health care teams which worked together as single units addressing the needs of the people which they served. Students completed two written assignments during their trips: daily reflective journals of their experiences working in interprofessional teams; and each student’s cultural story regarding a key cultural learning experience in critical thinking and collaboration. Each submission was then examined using a deductive six-step method of thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke) to determine how interprofessional teamwork affected collegiality and critical thinking in healthcare profession students.

Results/Outcomes: Thematic analysis of student reflective journals and cultural stories yielded two main themes with several sub-themes identifying the impact of international service learning in interprofessional healthcare teams. The first theme coded was critical thinking and problem solving, which supported sub-themes of balancing culture while providing optimal medical care, overcoming communication barriers due to language and health literacy, and providing optimal medical care with limited resources. The second main theme was IPE Collegiality and Collaboration which supported sub-themes of understanding roles and building relationships, improved skills and self-efficacy, and a renewed sense and appreciation for patient-centered holistic, and simplified healthcare.

Conclusions/Relevance: Combining IPE working in healthcare teams during global health mission trips has demonstrated positive effects on student’s critical thinking, collegiality, interprofessional engagement and mentoring. In addition, we found that these trips provide a unique environment which fosters an increase in their knowledge and respect for their role as a member of the healthcare team as well as the roles of other health professionals.

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