Context: Interprofessional education of pre-licensure students is viewed as an important precursor to developing healthcare professionals who are able to work collaboratively.
Objectives: This study conducted a program evaluation of an innovative interprofessional communication skills initiative which incorporated problem-based learning, cooperative learning and standardized patients.
Methods: The communication skills session consisted of a three-hour, faculty facilitated, interactive format in which teams of five to eight students met to conduct an interview with a standardized patient and develop an interprofessional care plan. The program evaluation included measures of satisfaction, the Interprofessional Education Perception Scale (IEPS), the Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale (RIPLS), focus groups and individual interviews.
Findings: A total of 96 students from medical, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, midwifery, physician assistant and pharmacy programs self-selected to participate in the evaluation. Students rated their satisfaction with the communications skills sessions highly. There were small but statistically significant changes pre- and post-session in the IEPS. Qualitative analyses revealed that students perceived that they had learned about each others' scope of practice and built confidence in their communication skills. The skill of the facilitator and preparation for the experience were perceived to promote the success.
Discussion and conclusion: The demand for experiential events which provide students with the skills required to interact effectively in healthcare teams is likely to continue with the growing awareness of the need for interprofessional education. A learning experience which incorporates standardized patients and feedback from faculty facilitators can promote authentic interprofessional learning, and develop students' confidence to communicate in a team environment.