Since early 2020, health care settings across the world have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with resulting flow-on effects on health care professionals and the work they do. Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice (IPECP) research has not been immune to this. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the Rural Interprofessional Education and Supervision (RIPES) research team has continued to progress an important study to further IPECP research and practice in Australia.
The RIPES model is a pre-entry health professional student clinical placement model that promotes IPECP. The purpose of this model is to enhance IPECP in rural health care settings. Local student clinical educators (supervisors) are upskilled to facilitate the RIPES model at rural health care sites. Students from two or more professions undertake the RIPES placement concurrently, overlapping for a period of five weeks, and participating in targeted IPECP activities. The RIPES model facilitates interprofessional education and supervision of students, through structured work shadowing of other professionals, weekly skills sessions on IPECP competencies and facilitated peer learning amongst RIPES students. To date, RIPES has included students and clinical educators from dietetics, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech pathology.
The RIPES research team – comprising Dr Priya Martin (Darling Downs Health), Associate Professor Anne Hill (University of Queensland), Ms Nicky Graham (Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service), Associate Professor Geoff Argus (Southern Queensland Rural Health) and Ms Martelle Ford (Darling Downs Health) – is a collaboration between Queensland Health, the University of Queensland and Southern Queensland Rural Health. The study seeks to evaluate the benefits and impacts of the RIPES placement model for students, clinical educators and health care settings, in comparison to regular uni-professional student placements and a period of no student placement. Findings to date have indicated that the RIPES model is beneficial to students, clinical educators and work settings. The RIPES model also seems to set off a ripple effect in the implementation sites, with many sites going on to further embed IPECP into their usual service delivery processes post-RIPES.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on student placements, affecting the study data collection and timelines, the RIPES research team have worked collaboratively to problem solve and progress the project. Without universities persisting with rural student placements and timely assistance from the clinical educators and students, this project would not have continued to progress. The RIPES study is a prime example of collaboration between health care and academic sectors, to develop and refine much-needed IPECP student placement models that benefit students, clinical educators and work settings, thereby ultimately enhancing client outcomes.