Interprofessional collaborative learning in the workplace: a qualitative study at a non-governmental organisation in Durban, South Africa

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Oct 6;20(1):346. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02264-5.


Background: The rapid progression of diseases and the complex, changing landscape of healthcare has increased the awareness that interprofessional collaboration is essential in ensuring safe and effective healthcare delivery. However, to develop a "collaborative practice-ready" workforce, organisations need to invest in the application of alternative approaches to the training of healthcare professionals.

Purpose of the study: To describe the perceptions of healthcare professionals attending an HIV interprofessional collaborative initiative at a non-governmental organization research site in South Africa and to provide suggestions regarding the improvement of this educational programme.

Methods: Focus group discussions (December 2018 to January 2019), were conducted on a purposeful sample (N = 21) consisting of healthcare professionals (clinicians, pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, and nurses), and clinical trial staff (recruiters, administrators, QC officers, psychologists, counsellors) based at a research site, who were invited to attend a continuing medical education initiative on the pathogenesis and treatment of HIV. Qualitative content analysis was carried out to identify meaning units, which were then condensed and labelled with a code. This was further grouped to form categories.

Results: Five categories emerged: learning something new, acquiring from each other, promoting company culture, needing company buy-in and teaching methods matter. Interprofessional collaborative learning improved technical capacity, work relationships and company culture. The diversity in learning needs of the different professionals requires a structuring of a curriculum to meet the needs of all. The success of this initiative requires company buy-in/investment and recognition from leaders and higher management with regards to time and resources. Suggestions for improvement included: formalizing the training, introducing more lectures and pitching each topic at different levels i.e. basic, intermediate or advanced, thus ensuring maximum benefit for all.

Conclusion: Inter-professional learning was perceived as highly valuable. This initiative has the potential to develop further but requires resources and company buy-in. All staff working (clinical and non-clinical) at the NGO site were represented in the interviews, thus ensuring a richer understanding of all perspectives relevant to the study site. The small sample size confined to a single research site, however, prevents these findings from being generalized and limits the applicability of its findings.

Keywords: Allied health; Collaboration; Education; Healthcare; Interprofessional; Medicine; Nursing; Pharmacist.