The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to describe the shared experience of interprofessional health profession students participating in a service learning trip to Ecuador.
The complexity of international service learning (ISL) and interprofessional education (IPE) occurring in an unfamiliar cultural environment is well suited for qualitative inquiry, which takes place within the natural setting. Phenomenology was chosen to investigate the students’ shared experience. Students work for five days in an impoverished community in Ecuador providing health care at a local community health clinic, satellite sites in the surrounding community, and patient homes. Students observe interdisciplinary practice and in some cases student teams performed evaluations during home visits. Students were interviewed about their interprofessional experiences.
The learning opportunity demystified other healthcare disciplines while supporting students’ personal and professional development. Four structural themes emerged to describe the student experiences, including 1) in all our differences, we are humanly similar, 2) making a difference, yet not doing enough, 3) demystifying other professions benefits the patients, and 4) magnified importance of communication.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education
Investing in combined ISL and IPE experiences supports personal and professional growth of healthcare professional students, and encourages students to engage in interprofessional teamwork for a shared goal: providing patient centered health care in a resource limited setting. The experience promoted interprofessional cultural learning. Understanding healthcare professional colleagues first as people and then as healthcare providers fosters collaborative relationship building.
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