African Journal of Health Professions Education

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Interprofessional knowledge and perceptions of selected South African healthcare practitioners towards each other

T.J. Ellapen, M Swanepoel, B.T. Qumbu, G.L. Strydom, Y Paul


Background. Interprofessional collaboration is internationally and popularly envisioned as a successful paradigm for the management of disease, disabilities and injuries. Despite this, the opinion of South African (SA) healthcare practitioners towards this idea is incoherent; this division of opinion needs to be changed to serve the common goal of better patient care.

Objective. To provide a narrative overview of literature-based evidence of interprofessional knowledge and perceptions of SA doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, speech and hearing therapists, as well as biokineticists regarding interprofessional collaboration.

Methods. An electronic search of Google Scholar, Crossref, PubMed and Sabinet databases identified 701 records, which were synthesised to 11 articles that were published during 2005 - 2016. Individual article quality was appraised using the modified Downs and Black scale.

Results. Of the 11 records, 3 were Master’s theses reviewing the interprofessional knowledge and perceptions of doctors, physiotherapists and biokineticists towards the profession of chiropractic therapy; 3 examined the perceptions of chiropractic therapy, occupational therapy, speech and hearing therapy and biokinetics towards physiotherapy and chiropractic therapy; while the remaining 5 were supportive of interprofessional collaboration. The nature of the research designs of the selected studies were: survey (n=6), short communication (n=1), clinical commentary (n=1), randomised controlled trial (n=1) and focus group interview (n=2). An incoherence underlies the perceptions of the abovementioned practitioners regarding interprofessional collaboration owing to lack of interprofessional knowledge regarding each given discipline’s scope of profession (SoP). This is compounded by uneasiness with regard to patient competition. Some physiotherapists are against collaborative relationships, while occupational therapists, biokineticists and chiropractors are inclined to support the notion of a multidisciplinary physical rehabilitation team. There is a paucity of literature-based evidence reviewing the knowledge and perceptions of medical doctors, nurses and physiotherapists with regard to the SoP of occupational therapists, speech and hearing therapists, biokineticists, dieticians and chiropractors, thereby warranting future investigation.

Conclusions. There are mixed perceptions of interprofessional collaboration among the selected healthcare practitioners owing to negative perceptions.
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