An Exploration of Teamwork Attitudes Among Students Participating in Interprofessional Global Health Experiences
Background: Interprofessional education (IPE) is recommended by the IOM and mandated by most accreditors to promote competencies that will enable health professional learners to become effective health care team members. In addition to required IPE activities, students may have opportunities for electives, including global health trips that provide direct medical care and healthcare education to underserved, rural populations outside the US, where teamwork may differ from the US healthcare system. Our institution requires students participating in global health trips to complete a 1-credit preparatory IPE course prior to their trip. The purpose of this exploratory study was to explore the benefits of interprofessional global health trips on attitudes about teamwork and to identify gaps and areas of opportunity for curricular development.
Methodology: We used a mixed methods approach with a sample of 31 students who completed a global health service trip in 2019 at one of four sites. The modified Attitudes Toward Health Care Teams (ATHCT) scale was a pretest-posttest measure. Qualitative data came from a required written post-trip reflection. A paired samples t-test was used to detect attitudinal change, and one-way ANOVA was used to compare sites. Reflections were analyzed using the Griffith University Affective Learning Scale (GUALS), and inductive coding was used to identify themes related to teamwork.
Results: Overall, attitudes were high before the trip, and there were no significant pre/post differences on the ATHCT scale; however, there was evidence of variance between sites, with one site in particular showing significant positive change. There was a moderate positive correlation between ATHCT change and both GUALS measures, but reflections about clinical practice in general showed a higher degree of affective learning than did interprofessional teamwork. Themes centered on positive team dynamics, interprofessional confidence, and learning about other team members.
Conclusions: While our small sample and group sizes limit comparisons and inferential conclusions, this study is a step toward better understanding the benefits of our global health trips on attitudes about teamwork and interprofessional practice. It is clear that these experiences promote positive attitudes and affective learning in some students, but the culture of the host country and their healthcare practices may influence these outcomes.
Implications: Our next steps are to explore service delivery at different sites (e.g., composition of teams, how teams are set up, opportunities for teamwork) and to actively promote effective team practices in preparatory curriculum and during trips.