Early exposure to multiple health disciplines including dentistry in pipeline programs that target underserved and underrepresented students interested in health professions reduces the development of traditional role and leadership stereotypes about professional healthcare teams and practice, report researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health New Orleans.
Programs that include interprofessional health exposure also ultimately will improve collaboration, resulting in better patient outcomes, according to an examination of pre-survey and post-survey responses of students participating in the 2017 Summer Health Professions Education Program at LSU Health New Orleans.
LSU Health New Orleans is one of 13 sites offering the free, six-week academic enrichment program for college freshmen and sophomores interested in healthcare careers. It is designed to help develop critical thinking and reasoning skills while providing academic enrichment in selected gateway undergraduate basic science and quantitative courses, as well as public health and health policy.
Additionally, the program provides professionalism skills and knowledge development in areas of cultural competency, health equity, professional careers, and financial planning as well as social determinants of health, medical ethics, and patient quality initiatives. The students gain some clinical experience as well.
Participants in 2017 also took part in small interprofessional education (IPE) group activities and sessions, completed an online module created by the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, and met faculty from various health disciplines at LSU Health New Orleans to learn about the educational and training requirements of their fields.
Fifty-three students who completed the surveys for the study demonstrated statistically significant positive changes in IPE perceptions. Student perceived knowledge of the scope of practice of dental providers, physician providers, and public health professionals also improved.
IPE occurs “when students from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes,” according to the World Health Organization. “Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as a member of the collaborative practice team. This is a key step in moving health systems from fragmentation to a position of strength.”
“Research is emerging on the positive impact of interprofessional education. However, there has not been much in the literature about the best time to incorporate it,” said Tina Gunaldo, PhD, DPT, director of LSU Health New Orleans’ Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice.
“We found that inclusion of IPE in an academic enrichment program exposes pre-health professional students to the importance of collaboration in influences typical negative stereotypes that exist before admission into a health professional program. Such early exposure has the potential to improve the development of professional healthcare teams,” Gunaldo said.
The study, “Integrating Interprofessional Education into an Academic Enrichment Program,” was published by Health and Interprofessional Practice.