Interprofessional education in undergraduate healthcare programmes: the reaction of student dietitians

K Whelan, J E Thomas, S Cooper, R Hilton, S C Jones, T Newton, B O'Neill, E E Gill
Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: the Official Journal of the British Dietetic Association 2005, 18 (6): 461-6

BACKGROUND: Interprofessional education (IPE) is a novel teaching and learning initiative where students of more than one health profession learn interactively together. However, despite its potential for improving interprofessional relationships, there is little information regarding the participation of student dietitians in IPE. The aim of this paper was to consider the reaction of student dietitians to an IPE course in order to stimulate debate between dietitians regarding the issues relating to IPE.

METHODS: Student dietitians participated in an IPE course consisting of seven sessions on communication and ethics in health care together with students of medicine and nursing. Student dietitians completed an evaluation questionnaire following each session that surveyed their reaction to the session using both a Likert scale and free-text comments.

RESULTS: Twenty-six student dietitians completed the IPE course. All sessions were rated positively for interest value (P < or = 0.14), learning experience (P < or = 0.036) and value for clinical practice (P < or = 0.05). The limited number of free-text comments indicated some positive experiences regarding interprofessional learning, teaching content and teaching strategy.

CONCLUSIONS: This is one of very few evaluations to describe the reaction of student dietitians to IPE. Student dietitians had largely positive reactions to the IPE course. Further research is required to evaluate whether these positive reactions were a direct consequence of the inclusion of students from other health professions and whether these translate into positive effects on learning, behaviour and results. The opportunities for the dietetic profession posed by students' involvement in IPE are discussed.

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