How do interprofessional student teams interact in a primary care clinic? A qualitative analysis using activity theory: A qualitative analysis using activity theory

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Practice based interprofessional education opportunities are proposed as a mechanism for health professionals to learn teamwork skills and gain an understanding ofthe roles of others. Primary care is an area of practice that offers a promising option forinterprofessional student learning. In this study, we investigated what and how students from differing professions learn together. Our findings inform the design of future interprofessionaleducation initiatives. Using activity theory, we conducted an ethnographic investigation of interprofessional education in primary care. During a 5 months period, we observed 14 clinic sessions involving mixed discipline student teams who interviewed people with chronic disease. Teams were comprised of senior medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy and physiotherapy entry level students. Semi-structuredinterviews were also conducted with seven clinical educators. Data were analysed toascertain the objectives, tools, rules and division of labour. Two integrated activity systems were identified: (1) student teams gathering information to determine patients’ health care needs and (2) patients either as health consumers or student educators. Unwritten rules regarding ‘shared contribution’, ‘patient as key information source’ and ‘time constraints’were identified. Both the significance of software literacy on team leadership, and a predetermined structure of enquiry, highlighted the importance of careful consideration of the tools used in interprofessional education, and the way they can influence practice. The systems of practice identified provide evidence of differing priorities and values, and multiple perspectives of how to manage health. The work reinforced the value of the patients’ voice in clinical and education processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-760
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Activity theory
  • Collaborative care
  • Interprofessional education
  • Primary care
  • Qualitative analysis

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