Impact of an interprofessional community-based educational experience on students' perceptions of other health professions and older adults

Jennifer Furze, Helene Lohman, Keli Mu
Journal of Allied Health 2008, 37 (2): 71-7
Caring for older adults has become increasingly complex due to multiple health and societal factors. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of an interprofessional community-based educational project on students' attitudes toward other health care professions and older adults. A pretest and posttest quasi-experimental research design was implemented with 64 participating students from four health care professions (nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacy). These students completed the Interdisciplinary Education Perception Scale (IEPS) and Survey of Attitudes on Aging Scale (SAAS) before and following an educational experience with older adults. Qualitative data were collected through student reflection journals and focus groups with participating students. The results of the study showed that interprofessional community-based learning had a significant impact on some students' attitudes toward older adults. The difference between pretest and posttest reached a statistically significant level on the SAAS in occupational therapy (p = 0.013) and physical therapy students (p = 0.044). No significant differences, however, were found between the pretest and posttest in pharmacy (p = 0.097) or nursing students (p = 0.144). Similarly, the experience also had a positive impact on some students' perceptions of other health care professions as measured by the IEPS. A significant difference was found between the pretest and posttest in occupational therapy (p = 0.000) and physical therapy students (p = 0.028). This study indicates that interprofessional community-based learning can be an effective method for some students to increase their understanding and respect toward other health professionals and older adults.

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