Promoting interprofessional understandings through online learning

Interprofessional education is increasingly a core element of health professional curricula. It has been suggested that interprofessional education can directly improve patient care outcomes. However, literature has reported many difficulties in its successful implementation. This study investigated students’ perceptions of participating in an online, Web-based module to facilitate interprofessional education. Three focus groups, each with 13-15 students, from emergency health (paramedic), nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and nutrition and dietetics were conducted with students who participated in an online interprofessional education module at one Australian university. Thematic analysis was employed to analyze interview transcripts. Four themes emerged: professional understanding, patient-centeredness, comparison with other interprofessional education activities, and overcoming geographical boundaries. Students were overwhelmingly positive regarding their learning experiences and the value of the module in aiding their understandings of the roles of other health professionals. Online approaches to interprofessional education have the potential to improve learning and overcome geographical and logistical issues inherent in providing face-to-face interprofessional education. In addition, their design approach enabled students to watch how other health professionals worked in a way that they weren’t able to achieve in clinical practice.