Impact of Level of Academic Degree on Healthcare Provider Perceptions of Interprofessional Collaboration
Background: Effectiveness of using interprofessional health care teams to improve patient health outcomes and access to care has been well researched, but barriers to provider participation in interprofessional collaboration (IPC) still exist. For example, stereotypes or misconceptions of other team member’s level of academic degree (associate, bachelors, masters, doctorate) may influence the provider’s attitude toward participation in IPC. Assessing a provider’s attitudes, opinions, or confidence through the lens of behavior theories can help researchers to further understand what attributes motivate someone to perform or engage in a certain behavior as well as reasonably predict the person’s intention to do so. The purpose of this study was to determine if health profession faculty perceptions of a provider’s academic degree level affect their willingness to collaborate with other providers. Specifically, this study explored whether differing academic degree levels affect a provider’s attitude, opinion, or confidence related to IPC.
Methods: This study was determined to be exempt from oversight by the Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board at the University of Michigan (U-M) (HUM#00162953). Eligible participants were licensed healthcare providers with U-M faculty appointments. Attitudinal questions were based on two established behavioral theories, and assessed perceptions, attitudes, intentions, and self-efficacy toward IPC with providers who held different levels of academic degree than their own.
Results: Respondents (n=179) primarily included faculty in medicine (29%), dentistry (23%), nursing (13%), dental hygiene (11%), physical therapy (8%), and pharmacy (7%). Ninety-five percent indicated they are comfortable taking recommendations on patient treatment from a provider with a doctoral/professional degree and 55% are comfortable taking treatment recommendations from a provider with an associate degree. Almost half (46%) of respondents indicated they think of collaborating with people with similar academic degrees as their own most often.
Conclusion: While faculty value IPC in improving patient outcomes, their perceptions of other healthcare providers’ level of academic degree may play a role in their willingness to collaborate with other providers. Despite an institution’s positive culture of IPC, faculty buy-in and stereotypes about provider level of academic degree need to be addressed. These results indicate a need to create a more level playing field among the varying professions and a culture in which each provider is valued to the full extent of their licenses. Future research should investigate why faculty value the role of providers with lesser degrees but are less likely to seek collaboration or treatment recommendations from those providers.