Background: A key responsibility of universities is to prepare health professional graduates for their roles as effective members of the health care team. Currently, most university-based health professional education is delivered in a traditional, discipline specific way. This approach is limited in its ability to equip graduates with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes for effective interprofessional collaboration and for working as part of a complex health care team. Interprofessional education occurs when learners from two or more professional groups learn about, from and with each other. The fundamental premise of interprofessional education is that if health professional students learn together they will be better prepared for interprofessional collaboration ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes.
Objective -The objective of this systematic review was to identify the best available evidence for the effectiveness of university-based interprofessional education.
Inclusion criteria -The review included all randomised controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies that assessed the effectiveness of interprofessional education in university-based health professional programs. All studies that included two or more undergraduate or post-graduate health professional groups engaged in interprofessional education were considered. Outcome measures included objectively measured or self-reported educational outcomes and/or professional competencies related to interprofessional education as assessed by validated instruments such as the Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale and the Interdisciplinary Education Perception Scale.
Search strategy: A three-stage comprehensive search strategy was utilised to search across ten electronic databases. English language studies published between January 2000 and February 2011 were considered for inclusion.
Methodological quality: Two independent reviewers assessed the methodological quality of each study selected for retrieval using standardised Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tools.
Data collection and synthesis: Data were extracted from studies using the standardised data extraction tool from the Joanna Briggs Institute. Meta-analysis was not possible because of the different outcomes, control groups and interventions of the selected studies; and the findings are therefore presented in narrative form.
Results: Nine published studies consisting of three randomised controlled trials, five controlled before and after studies and one controlled longitudinal study were eligible for inclusion in this review. Four studies reported significant improvement in attitudes and perceptions of interprofessional education. In addition, five studies reported a mixed set of outcomes related to interprofessional education interventions.
Implications for Practice
Student's attitudes and perceptions towards interprofessional collaboration and clinical decision making can be potentially enhanced through interprofessional education. However, the evidence for using interprofessional education to teach interprofessional communication skills and clinical skills such as resuscitation to health professions students is inconclusive and needs further investigation
Implications for Research
Future randomised controlled studies explicitly focused on interprofessional education with rigorous randomisation procedures and allocation concealment; larger sample sizes; and more appropriate control groups, would improve the evidence base of interprofessional education.