Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Professional Identity: Can Students’ Reflective Writings Measure Professional Development?

Keivan Ahmadi

The primary objective of this project is to develop an understanding of the relationship between IPE activities and professional identity formation through content/thematic analysis of reflective essays of MPharm students from three cohorts, longitudinally. The reflective essays are related to the interprofessional education activities with the aim of exploring if the themes could be used as proxies to measure professional identity development.

The secondary objective is to compare the emerged cohort-specific themes for a better understanding of professional development timeline in the context of interprofessional education activities in a 4-year MPharm course. It is important to know whether the professional development is a step-by-step gradual phenomenon or if it follows the “the theory of threshold concepts” described by (Meyer & Land, 2006), where the students at any given point in their curriculum grasp the concept of professional development and become professional.

The final objective is to examine the possibility of evaluating our IPE activities by qualitative analysis of students’ reflective narratives.

Identity formation is one of the frameworks to address professional development amongst healthcare students (Irby and Hamstra, 2016). The process of students becoming professionals is a continuous nurturing process. Healthcare students gradually develop their professional identity to mirror the values and dispositions of their profession, and to become the best they can be, professionally. There is a need to move from theoretical frameworks to interventions that foster professionalization among future healthcare professionals. It seems that interprofessional education (IPE) is a key catalyst intervention for formation of professional identity. To help the MPharm students form their professional identity, the pharmacy faculty at the University of Lincoln provide students with a series of IPE activities, including practice simulations and classroom based experiential learning. There is a significant association between professional development and reflective ability; although the causality of the association needs further investigations (Hoffman et al., 2016). The key issue is to analyse contents of students’ reflections to better understand their professional identity development. Therefore, the first research question is: can students’ reflective essays following IPE activities provide us with data on students’ professional identity development that could identify measuring and/or proxy measures for professional development?” The subsequent research question is: “Can we compare students’ professional identity development between cohorts?

In this qualitative research a representative anonymised sample of IPE-related reflective essays of year 1, 2 & 3 MPharm students – secondary data – shall be analysed for contents and emerging themes. In this research there is no need for data collection, as we will analyse the existing data from the submitted IPE reflective essays. The contents/themes shall be analysed for mentioning the traits of professionalism such as teamwork, respect, punctuality, problem-solving, leadership and provision of high quality service/care; and expression of students’ positive or negative feelings. We will refer to available “Standards for Pharmacy Professionals” such as General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) documents and other related publications. Additionally, we will also refer to codes from other professions such as “The code for nurses and midwives”, “Good Professional Practice for Biomedical Scientists”, “Standards and ethics guidance for Doctors” for a more robust analysis. We will also look into other data points such as exam results, attendance record and demographic data for a more holistic understanding of the findings. It is not clear if there is any correlation between reflection ability and final exam or attendance records.
Although, sample size is not an overriding concern in qualitative research; considering the cohort size and the distribution of reflective essays’ marks, we may need to analyse the contents of 24 to 36 reflective essays in total.