Views from the field: Medical student experiences and perceptions of interprofessional learning and collaboration in rural settings
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Exploring the perceived environment where students are educated, as well as where they practice, is particularly important for educators and practitioners working in situations of interprofessional rural and remote health. In this study, we explored the perceptions of undergraduate medical students regarding interprofessionalism across their four-year undergraduate program which focuses on rural health. A thematic content analysis of the text-data was conducted on a convenience sample of 47 student responses to essay questions across four cohorts of a four-year undergraduate medical program. The medical program has an explicit social accountability mandate for responsiveness to the needs of a rural population and thus students have multiple opportunities to experience interprofessional education and collaboration in rural contexts. Participants reported (a) blurring and flexibility of roles in a primarily positive manner, (b) participating in unstructured interprofessional learning and collaboration, (c) experiencing the importance of social connections to interprofessional collaboration and learning, and (d) realisations that interprofessional collaboration is a means of overcoming barriers in rural areas. We discuss our findings using the socio-material perspective of complexity theory. These findings may be used to inform undergraduate programs in re-defining, re-creating, developing, and fostering interprofessional learning opportunities for medical students in rural communities as well as to support clinical faculty through ongoing professional development.
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