African Journal of Health Professions Education

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Experiences of medical and pharmacy students’ learning in a shared environment: A qualitative study

D Johnston, PA McInerney, O Fadahun, LP Green-Thompson, S Moch, P Goven Shiba, A Magida


Background. Patient care is significantly affected by doctors and pharmacists, who have specialised knowledge and skills. In establishing an interprofessional undergraduate learning environment, medical and pharmacy students have the opportunity to start working in a collaborative manner early on in their careers.
Objectives. To implement combined clinical visits, where medical and pharmacy students jointly encounter patients, and to establish the students’ perceptions of working in an interprofessional team.
Methods. Final-year pharmacy students together with third-year medical students at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa were invited to participate in weekly joint patient  encounters at a central academic hospital from May to July 2012. Students assessed patient records and participated in the patient consultation, guided by the supervising doctor. Participants from each  discipline were invited to attend a disciplinespecific focus group discussion, where they shared their  perceptions and experiences. The discussions were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Content  analysis was used to analyse the transcriptions. Ethics approval was obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University.
Results. Four themes were identified: the meeting of professions; shared teaching and learning;  reciprocity in teaching and learning; and valuing the experience. It is evident that there was a change in students’ attitudes, and they developed mutual respect and a better understanding of their professional role and that of their peers. They also reported positive experiences in learning from and with one another.
Conclusion. This study focused on eliciting students’ perceptions and attitudes towards interprofessional teaching and learning. The positive responses to the experiences suggest that further learning  opportunities should be created with students from another discipline.
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