Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Effects of Interprofessional Rural Training on Students' Perceptions of Interprofessional Health Care Services

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Effects of Interprofessional Rural Training on Students' Perceptions of Interprofessional Health Care Services

Article excerpt

Interprofessional training has been advocated in the education of students in health care professions to facilitate collaboration and cooperation among health care providers. This study reported on one facet of the outcomes of a larger grant project funded by the Department of Health and Human Services HRSA grant #1-D36 AH 10082-03, which aimed to develop a new and innovative model for interprofessional student training. Over the 3-year period of the project, a total of 111 students from allied health professions including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacy participated in the project training. Participants' perceptions on interprofessional service were assessed before and after they participated in the project by the Interprofessional Education Perception Scale. Results of a univariate repeated measures two-way analysis of variance revealed a significant increase in participants' positive perceptions regarding interprofessional practice after they participated in the project (p < 0.05), and the significant increases were independent of the duration of the training (p < 0.01 for short-term and long-term training). A significant interaction between the duration of the training and pretest and posttest scores of the participants was found (p < 0.05) and students who participated in long-term training reported more positive attitudes on the posttest. These encouraging findings are supported and strengthened further by the qualitative data of the study, suggesting the training project has a significant impact on allied health students' perceptual attitudes toward interprofessional service delivery. Findings of the study are discussed related to the improvement of quality care and to the recruitment and retentions of health care providers in rural and underserved areas. J Allied Health. 2004; 33:125-131.

MEETING HEALTH CARE NEEDS of residents in rural and underserved areas in the United States continues to challenge health care providers. Rural areas often are characterized by poverty, isolation, sparse population, limited resources, and limited employment and educational opportunities for residents.1-3 Barriers to access for health care services by rural residents include shortage of health care providers, lack of transportation, lower levels of income, inadequate insurance coverage for care, and limited availability of health care services.4-6 These barriers have a profound impact on the health status of residents who live in rural and underserved areas, especially Native Americans, approximately one third of whom live in ongoing poverty.7 Health care professionals working in these underserved areas are required to have knowledge, skill, and experience to work in and with these communities because there may be few other health care workers in the same profession with whom to share responsibility for overall community health and wellness.

An interprofessional* health care model for delivering patient care services has been developed and advocated since the 1980s.8,9 The impetus of the movement from a multiprofessional approach to an interprofessional approach has been well articulated in health care literature.10-13 The interprofessional approach encourages collaborations among professionals from varied professions and advocates a team approach in assessing patients and planning and implementing health care services. The interprofessional approach has been shown to lead to improved quality care of patients with improved patient outcomes.10,14-19 The interprofessional approach is especially crucial in rural practice due to limited resources and undersupplied health care professionals.8,18,20,21 The interprofessional approach can lead to better use of available resources and provide more holistic care to meet the complex needs of the patients better.

Despite its merits, problems do arise when implementing interprofessional health care services. One noticeable obstacle is the professionals' limited awareness and understanding of the scope of practice of other health care professionals and of the significance of collaboration and cooperation among health care professionals in enhancing the quality of health care. …

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