Initiation of a multidisciplinary summer studentship in palliative and supportive care in oncology

J Multidiscip Healthc. 2012:5:231-9. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S34527. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Purpose: The optimal setting for interprofessional education (IPE) for prelicensure health care trainees is unclear, especially in a field as complex and emotionally challenging as oncology. In this article, the authors describe the initiation of the Cross Cancer Institute Multidisciplinary Summer Studentship in Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology, a 6-week, multidisciplinary team-based clinical placement in supportive care, designed to incorporate features of best practice cooperative learning.

Methods: A steering committee established goals, structure, eligibility criteria, application process, funding, and a consensus approach to instruction and evaluation for the IPE program. Studentship components included mandatory and flexible clinical time, an exploratory investigation, discussion groups, and a presentation. Two senior students per iteration were selected from clinical nutrition, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, respiratory therapy, social work, and speech-language pathology applicants. These students completed questionnaires investigating their views of their own and others' professions at baseline, at the end of the rotation, and 6 months after the studentship.

Results: Eight students from medicine, clinical nutrition, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech-language pathology have participated to date. At the elective's end, students have described a more positive view of multidisciplinary team practice, with each participating discipline perceived as both more caring and more subservient than at baseline. In general, changes in attitudes were maintained 6 months after completion of the placement.

Conclusion: This 6-week multidisciplinary placement is feasible, successful, and potentially transferable to other academic settings. The results of this study suggest that even over as short a period as 6 weeks, objective attitudinal and perceptual change is seen.

Keywords: clinical placement; evaluation; interprofessional education; multidisciplinary team; perceptual change.