Impact of an interprofessional education program on developing skilled graduates well-equipped to practise in rural and underserved areas
University of the Western Cape, Johanasburg, South Africa
Introduction: Poverty, limited access to resources and a lack of infrastructure characterise the division of rural areas from urban South Africa. Low numbers of social welfare professionals compound the problem. With education linked inextricably in social responsibility, higher education institutions (HEIs) are called upon increasingly to create conditions that encourage students and graduates to practise in more socially responsible ways, involving more than mere disciplinary expertise or technical knowledge, and that consider the problems of rural areas. Use of interprofessional education (IPE) programs, based on teamwork, could enable HEIs to train and guide health sciences students in how best to cooperate with each other and combine their skills to mutual benefit. This would enable them to develop professional skills facilitated by interactive engagement within community settings. Methods: Referencing experience gained in Australia and elsewhere, the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences (FCHS) at the University of Western Cape (UWC) has developed and applied an IPE program for South Africa. Students were placed in interdisciplinary groups in a rural and underserved municipality of the Western Cape - 17 students participated in a study on the effectiveness of this program. A quantitative self-administered questionnaire, followed by qualitative focus group discussions, established student perceptions of their IPE experience, how the experience influenced their intentions for or against future practice in rural and underserved areas, and their interest in future interprofessional collaboration and practice. Results: More than 75% of the participating students agreed that they had learnt to develop knowledge base, procedural and healthcare practice presentation skills, along with preparing written community health histories. Student willingness to practise in rural areas was evidenced, citing community- and resource-based factors as determinants; however, concerns that some community members had 'own agendas' were expressed. Nearly all students highly appreciated their learning and service delivery development, but 47% felt that their educational experience did not go as far as expected. Student concerns were a lack of structured student placement for IPE to occur in the program, as well as limited staff supervision of students. Conclusions: The UWC FCHS IPE program is evidenced as a valid approach to encouraging health sciences students and graduates to choose to practise in more socially responsible ways. However, improvement of placement and supervision methodology and practice should be explored at faculty level and implemented in future IPE programs. © R Mpofu, The Late, PS Daniels, T-A Adonis, WM Karuguti, 2014.
adult; attitude to health; clinical competence; education; female; health care personnel; health care planning; human; male; organization and management; program evaluation; public relations; questionnaire; reproducibility; rural health care; South Africa; Adult; Clinical Competence; Female; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Health Personnel; Humans; Interprofessional Relations; Male; Medically Underserved Area; Program Evaluation; Questionnaires; Reproducibility of Results; Rural Health Services; South Africa