How does interprofessional education influence students’ perceptions of collaboration in the clinical setting? A qualitative study

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Background: Interprofessional education (IPE) aims to improve students’ collaborative competencies and behaviour. The effect of classroom IPE on students’ perceptions of collaboration in clinical practice, and how knowledge is possibly transferred, has yet to be investigated. The research question of this study was: How does IPE in a classroom setting influence students’ perceptions of collaboration in clinical practice? Social capital theory is used as the theoretical lens. Social capital theory describes how social relationships generate benefits for the individuals involved. Social capital can be divided into three forms of social cohesion: bonding, bridging and linking social capital. Bonding refers to connections that are close and strong, such as family. Bridging social capital occurs in more distant relationships. Linking social capital refers to relationships between individuals with different power or social status. Methods: A qualitative study with semi-structured face-to-face interviews was conducted to explore students’ perceptions and experiences. Nursing and medical students who had participated in four classroom IPE-sessions were asked about the perceived influence of the IPE-sessions they had attended on their interprofessional collaboration. Thematic analysis was conducted, with sensitising concepts of ‘bonding’, ‘bridging’ and ‘linking social capital’ from the social capital theory. Results: Twenty-two interviews were conducted. Students experienced: 1) exchange of discipline specific knowledge, 2) general knowledge about each other’s responsibilities, 3) reduction of hierarchy, and 4) improvement in patient care. The first two themes reflect bridging social capital, since students experience that the other student is from a different group. The third theme reflects linking social capital, since students experience a difference in (social) status. The fourth theme most explicitly reflects ‘getting ahead’ or doing better, what is referred to as an effect of increased social capital. Conclusion: This study reveals new insights regarding how increased social capital of undergraduate students after IPE-sessions in a classroom setting influences the way they conceptualise and experience interprofessional collaboration in clinical practice. These insights contribute to the understanding of the effectiveness of IPE in undergraduate curricula. Further research on long-term effects is underway.
Original languageEnglish
Article number325
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Interprofessional education
  • Interviews
  • Perceived influence
  • Qualitative method
  • Social capital theory

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