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Acad Med. 2004 Aug;79(8):769-76.

Interdisciplinary education: evaluation of a palliative care training intervention for pre-professionals.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and School of Public Health, Box 956900, Room A2-125 CHS, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6900, USA.



Medical education inadequately prepares students for interdisciplinary collaboration, an essential component of palliative care and numerous other areas of clinical practice. This study developed and evaluated an innovative interdisciplinary educational program in palliative care designed to promote interdisciplinary exchange and understanding.


The study used a quasi-experimental longitudinal design. Thirty-three medical students (third and fourth year) and 38 social work students (second year of masters degree) were recruited. The intervention group students (21 medical and 24 social work students) participated in a series of four training sessions over four weeks while the control group students received written materials after the study. The curriculum and teaching methods were based on theories of professional socialization and experiential learning. The intervention included experiential methods to promote interdisciplinary interaction to foster communication, exchange of perspectives, and the building of mutual trust and respect. Both groups completed assessments of perceived role understanding, a primary component of effective interdisciplinary teamwork, in palliative care. Self-administered surveys were completed at baseline, intervention completion, and three months later. The intervention group also completed an anonymous evaluation about the interdisciplinary education.


The intervention group demonstrated a significant increase in perceived role understanding compared with the control group. Three-month follow-up data suggested that intervention group subjects maintained gains in perceived role understanding.


An interdisciplinary educational intervention improves role understanding early in the process of professional socialization in a pilot program. Further implementation of interdisciplinary education should evaluate the effect on subsequent interdisciplinary practice and the quality of patient care.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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