Describing the healthcare student threshold concept of interprofessionality: A phenomenography

Natasha Hubbard Murdoch

The purpose of this research was to describe the threshold concept of interprofessionality which is the deployment of innovative team knowledge toward a common goal at the crux of education and practice and that is based in values and professional codes. Thirteen healthcare students from three different educational institutions across one province representing eight different professional programs relayed their experiences of working with others from 15 different healthcare backgrounds. Phenomenography, based in a social constructionist epistemology, is research into how humans experience phenomena through the creation of a hierarchy of categories from superficial to deep learning. Students were interviewed, about an interprofessional patient threshold moment, in a stepwise approach with the subsequent student contributing to aggregate category development as each interview was completed. Students reported on serendipitous learning opportunities but also provided critique of the limited structured interprofessional experiences available within their educational programs. The liminal student experience included the chaos of being a healthcare student and becoming a professional. The phenomenographic categories reflect student interprofessional learning about the patient experience through individual, community and global interactions. Students confirmed how these categories become four learning steps which were given these short names: 1) community vision, 2) leadership expectations and obligations, 3) trust and value, and 4) ‘connect the threads.’ The ontologic shift was interprofessionality, the threshold a-ha! moment and a changing worldview toward becoming an interprofessional team member. Research conclusions developed from concerns about the authenticity of IPE, the uniqueness of being a healthcare student and the delivery of patient-centred care. Because of the social constructionist lens, the results add to discussion about threshold concepts in professional healthcare education programs, the complexity of interprofessional frameworks bridging education and health settings to ground threshold concept research and the choice of philosophical underpinnings for educational research that could impact patient outcomes.