Engaging Early Health Profession Students with Real Patients Develops Awareness of Social Determinants of Health and Biases
Implicit bias among health professionals fosters disparities across groups of patients. This qualitative study aims to determine how an interprofessional education (IPE) experiential program, using social determinants of health (SDH) as its framework, influenced early health profession students’ to consider SDH as they develop awareness regarding their interprofessional identity when interacting with patients.
The Longitudinal Interprofessional Family-Based Experience (LIFE), an 11-week experiential IPE program, engaged early health professional learners through two interviews with real patients who experience chronic illness. Student teams designed questions prompting patients to discuss their: 1) lived experiences with a chronic condition and 2) experiences with the healthcare system and community. Before developing questions, learners attended a kick-off session introducing concepts of SDH through active learning, and following the interviews, attended a closing-session.
Throughout LIFE, learners engaged in reflections regarding their experiences working with patients and their team. During the kick-off, learners reflected on an image depicting a healthcare environment in a low-income community with the only prompt: “state what you see.” Following discussion on SDH, students reflected on the same image. Following the two patient interviews, students reflected on: “What did you notice about similarities/differences of patient’s and your own assumptions, beliefs, and/or identities?” Responses were analyzed using inductive thematic analyses. Further reflections will be analyzed similarly.
In the first image reflection, learners described obvious scenery like: “person laying on floor.” Following the SDH discussion, students' reflections deepened, recognizing social and systemic factors embedded within the image like: “unsafe conditions perhaps due to lack of policy.”
A main theme in the post-interview reflection was active listening (Nf44, 86%), explained throughout the responses as helping to connect with patients different from themselves, represented here: “I couldn’t deeply understand how race plays a role in one's healthcare because I identify as white. However, the patient explained her positionalities in-depth that allowed team members to empathize with her experience.”
Intentional teaching and application of SDH in IPE increased awareness among early learners about how their own beliefs and experiences, in addition to the patients lived-experiences, may affect healthcare.
Early, intentional training of SDH has potential to increase learners’ awareness of their own and teams’ bias, and how patients’ lived experiences impacts their healthcare.
Description of how the poster fulfills the priority criteria
LIFE explicitly addressed SDH in early health profession training and its potential impact on long-term interprofessional care of diverse populations.