The Virtual Interprofessional Patients-Computer-Assisted Reproductive Health Education for Students (VIP-CARES) Project took place during the summers of 2010-2012 for eight weeks each year at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Undergraduate health care students worked collaboratively to develop virtual patient case-based learning modules on the topic of family planning. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the changes in perception towards interprofessional collaboration (IPC) among the participants, before and after the project.
This study utilized a mixed methods evaluation using self-assessment survey instruments, semi-structured interviews, and reflective essays. Pre- and post- project surveys were adapted from the Canadian Medical Education Determinants (CanMEDS) and Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (CIHC) frameworks, as well as the Memorial University Interprofessional Attitudes (IPA) questionnaire. The survey results were analyzed as mean (M) and standard deviation (SD) on Likert scales. The non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to determine if any significant changes were measured between each participant's differences in score (p ≤ 0.05). Post-project interview transcripts and essays were analyzed using recursive abstraction to elicit any themes.
Altogether, 26 students in medicine, pharmacy, nursing, midwifery, dentistry, counselling psychology, and computer science participated in VIP-CARES, during the three years. Student attitudes toward IPC were positive before and after the project. At the project's conclusion, there was a statistically significant increase in the participants' self-assessment competency scores in the CanMEDS roles of health advocate (p = 0.05), manager (p = 0.02), and medical expert (p = 0.03), as well as the CIHC domains of interprofessional communication (p = 0.04), role clarification (p = 0.01), team functioning (p = 0.05), and collaborative leadership (p = 0.01). Qualitative evaluations yielded three major themes: communication and respect as key to team functioning, importance of role clarification within the team, and existence of inherent challenges to IPC. From the reflections, students generally felt more comfortable with their improvements in the CIHC domains of interprofessional communication, team functioning, and role clarification.
After working within an interdisciplinary team developing virtual patient learning modules on family planning, the student participants of the VIP-CARES Project indicated general improvement in the skills necessary for effective interprofessional collaboration. Triangulation of the overall data suggests this was especially observed within the areas of interprofessional communication, team functioning, and role clarification.