Enhancing interprofessional education with technology

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University of Delaware
Most health professional students spend a significant amount of their education in a clinical setting. These settings help students develop patient-centered care that is rooted in evidence and dynamic in design and socialize them to be able to engage in collaborative practice. Typically, students involved in inter-professional education (IPE) activities develop team building skills that focus on the function of a team and the role identities of its members, yet little opportunity exists for students to develop collaborative skills in clinical practice. Among the many factors that contribute to the lack of exposure to team-functioning in a clinical setting, the most important is logistics. This action research study looked at identifying ways technology could be used to enhance IPE in a clinical setting, allowing more students to collaborate and develop the needed competencies for practice in healthcare today. Clearly, when students from multiple two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other, effective collaboration and communication is enabled and health outcomes are improved (WHO, 2010). This study was designed in four phases which shaped the identifiable tools Google Docs and Google + Hangouts for collaboration during clinical rounding on a patient care unit. A triangulation of data collected was used to identify students' attitudes and beliefs towards technology and clinically focused inter-professional education. Data analysis showed that for many of the students this was their first experience on a clinical team and, more importantly, their first experience using educational technology for collaboration in the clinical environment. Students stated that the experience was invaluable and the faculty noted that the information exchange and collaboration of the students allowed for higher ordinal thinking and clinical reasoning. The study showed the potential for inter-professional clinical experiences, no matter how brief, to have an impact on the health profession students' future practice. Based on these findings, collaborative tools are recommended to increase clinical rounding opportunities for students from a variety of professions. It is clear that faculty development for clinical partners to help socialize students to inter-professional practice will not only affect practice, but ultimately patient care.