Child disability case studies: an interprofessional learning opportunity for medical students and paediatric nursing students

Karen N Street, Nicola Eaton, Brenda Clarke, Matthew Ellis, Patricia M Young, Linda Hunt, Alan Emond
Medical Education 2007, 41 (8): 771-80

CONTEXT: We describe an interprofessional learning (IPL) opportunity for pre-qualification medical and paediatric nursing students using community-based case studies of disabled children and their families.

METHODS: A total of 160 students were randomly allocated into interprofessional and uniprofessional pairs. Each pair visited a disabled child at home and school and presented their experience to the rest of the group. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods were used to explore the learning experience. Data collection tools included a scale measuring attitudes towards IPL, which was completed by all students before and after their visits and focus groups.

RESULTS: The value of the community setting and independent working of the case study was appreciated by the students. The intimacy involved in working in IP pairs demonstrated both positive and negative features. Nursing students showed more open and positive attitudes towards IPL than medical students. Nursing students in IP pairs appear to have benefited most from the exercise, notably in terms of confidence and self-esteem. Professional differences in communication skills and approach were identified as particular learning points for all students.

CONCLUSIONS: The added value of combining quantitative and qualitative research methods is well demonstrated by this study. Learning opportunities from the case study were greater as a result of working interprofessionally. Student attitudes towards IPL and professional stereotyping changed as a result of this IPL exercise. The importance of the social context of learning and the contact hypothesis are supported by our findings.

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