Interprofessional Academic Service-Learning in Rural Australia: Exploring the impact on allied health student knowledge, skills, and practice. A Qualitative Study.

  • Debra Jones The University of Sydney
  • Lindy McAllister The University of Sydney
  • David Lyle The University of Sydney
Keywords: allied health, interprofessional, occupational therapy, rural, service-learning, school children, speech pathology


The program at the centre of this study was established in 2009 to address unmet allied health needs for rural Australian children through a primary school-based academic service-learning program. Allied health students work as interprofessional cohorts, across four school terms. Students draw on the work of previous cohorts to inform therapeutic engagement for pupils across the year. This qualitative study aimed to identify allied health student and academic expereinces and impact of program participation. One student cohort undertaking their placement in 2014 consented to particapte in interprofessional focus groups. Allied health academics participated in individual semi-structured interviews in late 2014. Data was thematically analysed with key themes and subthemes identified. This paper focuses on the interprofessional findings of; exposure challenges; the 'team continuum'; knowledge sharing between disciplines; cross-discipline collaboration; team service delivery; planning and organisation. Student acculturation and participant perceptions of desirability for interprofessional practice expereinces are also discussed. A number of limitations in the provisionof, and access to, interprofessional practice opportunities were described. Enhanced student knowledge, skills, attitutudes and resultant interprofessional practice, through participation in the prorgam, were identified by participants as program impacts.

Author Biography

Debra Jones, The University of Sydney

Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health

Director, Primary Health Care


Allied Health Professionals Australia (2013) Policy Paper: Australia’s Workforce of Allied Health Professionals. Canberra: AHPA

Arvidsson, B., Skärsäter, I., Öijervall, J., and Fridlund, B. (2008) ‘Process-orientated group supervision implemented during nursing education: Nurses conceptions 1 year after their nursing degree’. Journal of Nursing Management 16 (7), 868–875. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2008.00925.x

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2008), ‘Rural, regional and remote health: Indicators of health status and determinants of health’. Rural Health Series No.9. Canberra: AIHW

Baker, C., Pulling, C., McGraw, R., Dagnone, J. D., Hopkins-Rosseel, D., and Medves, J. (2008) ‘Simulation in interprofessional education for patient-centred collaborative care’. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 64 (4), 372–379. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04798.x

Bainbridge, L., Nasmith, L., Orchard, C., and Wood, V. (2010) ‘Competencies for interprofessional collaboration’. Journal of Physical Therapy Education 24 (1), 6–11 [NO DOI]

Barr, R., and Tagg, J. (1995) ‘From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education’. Change 27 (6), 12–26. doi: 10.1080/00091383.1995.10544672

Baum, F, Bégin, M, Houweling, T, and Taylor S. (2009) ‘Changes not for the faint hearted:

Re-orientating health care systems toward health equity through action on the social determinants of health’. American Journal of Public Health 99 (11),1967–1974. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.154856

Boyce, R., Moran, M., Nissen, L., Chenery, H., and Brooks, P. (2009) ‘Interprofessional education in health sciences; why a health care team challenge?’. Medical Journal of Australia 190(8), 433–436 [NO DOI]

Brewer, M., and Stewart-Wynne, E. (2013) ‘An Australian hospital-based student training ward delivering safe, client-centred care while developing students’ interprofessional practice capabilities’. Journal of Interprofessional Care 27 (6), 482–488 doi:10.3109/13561820.2013.811639

Bridges, D., Davidson, R., Odegard, P., Maki, I., and Tomkowiak, J. (2011) ‘Interprofessional collaboration: Three best practice models of interprofessional education’. Medical Education Online 16, 6035-. doi: 10.3402./meo.v16i0.6035

Brownie, S, Miller, M, Davies, L., Swanston, A., and Frakes, K. (2011) The Capricornia Project: Developing and Implementing an Interprofessional Student-Assisted Allied Health Clinic. Brisbane: Clinical Education and Training Queensland (ClinEdQ)

Centre for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education (CAIPE) (2002) Defining IPE. [online] available from

Chipchase, L., Allen, S., Eley, D., McAllister, L., and Strong, J. (2012) ‘Interprofessional supervision in an intercultural context: A qualitative study’. Journal of Interprofessional Care 26 (6), 465–471. doi: 10.3109/13561820.2012.718813

Clark, M., McKague, M, McKay, S., and Ramsden, V. (2015) ‘Deeper learning through service: Evaluation of an interprofessional community service-learning program for pharmacy and medicine students’. Journal of Interprofessional Practice and Education [online] 5 (1). available from >

Creswell, J. (2007) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 2nd edn. London: Sage

Ernstzen, D., Bitzer, E and Grimmer-Somers, K. (2009) ‘Physiotherapy students’ and clinical teachers’ perceptions of clinical learning opportunities: A case study’. Medical Teacher 31 (3), e102–115 doi:10.1080/01421590802512870

Eyler, J. and Giles, D. (1999) Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Fram, S. (2013) ‘The constant comparative analysis method outside of grounded theory’. The Qualitative Report 18 (1), 1–25. available from

Freeth, D., Hammick, M., Reeves, S., Koppel, I., and Barr, H. (eds.) (2005) Effective Interprofessional Education: Development, Delivery & Evaluation. Oxford: Blackwell

Grace, S., and Morgan, A. (2015) ‘Students’ experiences of interprofessional supervision: Shared characteristics of the caring professions’. Journal of Integrative Medicine 2 (1), 4

Health Workforce Australia (HWA) (2013) National Rural and Remote Health Workforce Innovation and Reform Strategy. Adelaide: HWA

Howell, D., Devine, N., and Portsman, L. (2004) ‘An interdisciplinary learning experience through applied clinical practice with community volunteers’. Occupational Therapy Faculty and Staff Research [online] Paper 3 available from

Jackson, D. (2010) ‘An international profile of industry-relevant competencies and skill gaps in modern graduates’. International Journal of Management Education 8 (3), 29–58. doi: 10.3794/ijme.83.288

Jacob, E., Barnett, T., Missen, K., Cross, M., and Walker, L. (2012) ‘Australian clinicians’ views on interprofessional education for students in the rural clinical setting’. Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education [online] 2 (2). available from

Jacoby, B. (ed.) (2003) Building Partnerships for Service-Learning. San Francisco: Wiley

Jones, D., McAllister, L, Lyle, D., Brunero, C., Webb, T., and Riley, S. (2015) ‘Improving health and education outcomes for children in remote communities: A cross-sector and developmental evaluation approach’. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement [online] 8 (1) 1–22). doi: 10.5130/ijcre.v8i1.4163

Prince, K., Boshuizen, H., Van Der Vleuten, C. and Scherpbier, A. (2005) ‘Students' opinions about their preparation for clinical practice’. Medical Education, 39 (7) 704–712. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2005.02207.x

Körner, M., Wirtz, M., Bengel, J., and Göritz, A. (2015) ‘Relationship of organizational culture, teamwork and job satisfaction in interprofessional teams’. BMC Health Services Research 15, 243. doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0888-y

Kuipers, P., Pager, S., Bell, K., Hall, F., and Kendall, M. (2013) ‘Do structured arrangements for multidisciplinary peer group supervision make a difference for allied health professional outcomes?’. Journal of Multidisciplinary Health Care 6, 391–397. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S51339

Laitinen-Väänänen, S., Talvitie, U., and Luuka, M. (2007) ‘Clinical supervision as an interaction between the clinical educator and the student’. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice 23 (2), 95–103. doi: 10.1080/09593980701212018

Lave, J., and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Leander, S., Maloney, M., Ruebling, I., Banks, R., Pole, D., and Kettenbach, G. (2014) ‘“The power of many minds working together”: Qualitative study of an interprofessional service-learning capstone course’. Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education [online] 4 (2). available from

McLachlan, R., Gilfillan, G., and Gordon, J. (2013) Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia. Canberra: Productivity Commission Staff Working Paper

Manion, J., Lorimer, W., and Leander, W. (1996) Team-Based Health Care Organisations: Blueprint for Success. Gaithersburg MD: Aspen

Mason, J. (2013) Review of Australian Government Health Workforce Programs. Canberra: Department of Health.

Miles, B., Huberman, M., and Saldana, J. (2014) Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook. 3rd edn. Thousand Oaks: Sage

Morgan, D. (1998) The Focus Group Guide Book. London: Sage

NSW Department of Education and Communities (2013) Rural and Remote Education: A Blueprint for Action. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Communities

Olsen, R., and Bialocerkowski, A. (2014) ‘Interprofessional education in allied health: A systematic review’. Medical Education 48 (3), 236–246. doi: 10.1111/medu.12290

Poling, D., and Kiersma, M. (2014) ‘A unique interprofessional and multi-institutional education series’. Journal of Nursing Education [online] 53 (7) available from

Poling et al (2015)

Ritchie, J., and Lewis, J. (eds.) (2003) Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers. London: Sage

Sandelowski, M. (2000) ‘Focus on research methods: Whatever happened to qualitative description?’. Research in Nursing and Health 23, 334–340. DOI: 10.1002/1098-240X(200008)23:4<334::AID-NUR9>3.0.CO;2-G

Secomb, J. (2008) ‘A systematic review of peer teaching and learning in clinical education’. Journal of Clinical Nursing 17 (6), 703–716. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.01954.x

Seifer, S. (1998) ‘Service-learning: Community-campus partnerships for health professions education’. Academic Medicine, 73 (3), 273–77 [NO DOI]

Sevenhuysen, S., Nickson, W., Farlie, M., Raitman, L., Keating, J., Molloy, E., Skinner, E., Maloney, S., and Haines, T. (2013) ‘The development of a peer assisted learning model for the clinical education of physiotherapy students’. Journal of Peer Learning [online] 6 (1), 30–45. available from

Simon, A., Pastor, P, Avila, R and Blumberg, S. (2013) ‘Socioeconomic disadvantage and developmental delay among US children aged 18 months to 5 years’. Journal of Epidemiological Community Health 67 (8), 689–695 doi:10.1136/jech-2013-202610

Smith, J., Bekker, H., and Cheater, F. (2011) ‘Theoretical versus pragmatic design in qualitative research’. Nurse Researcher 18 (2), 39–51. doi 10.7748/nr2011.

Smith, C., Ferns, S., and Russell, L. (2014) The Impact of Work Integrated Learning on Student Work-Readiness. Final Report 2014. Sydney: Office for Learning and Teaching

Spiers, M., and Harris, M. (2015) ‘Challenges to student transition in allied health undergraduate education in the australian rural and remote context: A synthesis of barriers and enablers’. Rural and Remote Health [online] 15 (2), 3069 available from

Sterrett, S. (2010) ‘Becoming an interprofessional community of practice: A qualitative study of an interprofessional fellowship’. Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education [online] 1 (3). available from

Wakerman, J., Curry, R., and McEldowney, R. (2012) ‘Fly in/fly out health services: The panacea or the problem?’ Rural and Remote Health [online] 12, 2268. available from

World Health Organisation (2010) Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. Study Group on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. Geneva: World Health Organisation (WHO), Health Professions Network Nursing and Midwifery Office

Zlotkowski, E. (1996) ‘A new voice at the table? Linking service-learning and the academy’. Change The Magazine of Higher Learning 28 (1) 20–27. doi:10.1080/00091383.1996.10544252

How to Cite
Jones, D., McAllister, L., & Lyle, D. (2015). Interprofessional Academic Service-Learning in Rural Australia: Exploring the impact on allied health student knowledge, skills, and practice. A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 3(2), 1-16.

Most read articles by the same author(s)