Involving service users in interprofessional education narrowing the gap between theory and practice

J Interprof Care. 2006 Dec;20(6):603-17. doi: 10.1080/13561820601029767.


Calls for greater collaboration between professionals in health and social care have led to pressures to move toward interprofessional education (IPE) at both pre- and post-registration levels. Whilst this move has evolved out of "common sense" demands, such a multiple systems approach to education does not fit easily into existing traditional educational frameworks and there is, as yet, no proven theoretical framework to guide its development. A research study of an IPE intervention at the University of Liverpool in the UK drew on complexity theory to conceptualize the intervention and to evaluate its impact on a group of approximately 500 students studying physiotherapy, medicine, occupational therapy, nursing and social work. The intervention blended a multidisciplinary (non-interactive) plenary with self-directed e-learning and a series of interdisciplinary (interactive) workshops. Two evaluations took place: the first when the workshops were facilitated by trained practitioners; the second when the practitioners co-facilitated with trained service users. This paper reports findings from the second evaluation which focused on narrowing the gap between theory and practice. A multi-stakeholder evaluation was used including: students' reflective narratives, a focus group with practitioners and individual semi-structured interviews with service users. Findings showed that service users can make an important contribution to IPE for health and social care students in the early stages of their training. By exposure to a service user perspective, first year students can begin to learn and apply the principles of team work, to place the service user at the centre of the care process, to make connections between theory and "real life" experiences, and to narrow the gap between theory and practice. Findings also revealed benefits for facilitators and service users.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Education, Professional / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Models, Educational*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Problem-Based Learning / methods