Early stages of learning in interprofessional education: stepping towards collective competence for healthcare teams

Publication Name

BMC Medical Education


Background: Interprofessional education (IPE) is a core element of many health professional education curricula. To date the focus of much research has been on student perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the learning experience. Little is known about the impact of early IPE experience on how students understand and learn about effective interprofessional teamwork. Methods: This qualitative study involved first year university students enrolled in health professions degrees and investigated their descriptions of interprofessional teamwork through graphic elicitation and interviews. Participants were enrolled in a large-scale interprofessional unit (subject) in the university. Results: The data were analysed through the lens of a tool that classifies dimensions of interprofessional activity. The findings indicated the majority of students had what was classified as a Stage 1 (or ‘nascent’) understanding of integration between work practices and a Stage 2 (or ‘emerging’) understanding of the dimensions of interprofessional teamwork which were commitment, identity, goals, roles and responsibilities, and interdependence. Conclusions: Based on the findings, the stages for a learning trajectory for interprofessional education are proposed and each stage is mapped to dimensions of interprofessional activity. A number of pedagogical strategies are suggested in order to move students through this two-stage model of learning and ensure their readiness for interprofessional teamwork as health professionals.

Open Access Status

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

Curtin University of Technology



Link to publisher version (DOI)