Objectives During the past decade, several studies have systematically reviewed interprofessional education (IPE), but few have inclusively reviewed this literature. None has focused primarily on IPE in allied health, despite differences in recruitment and socialisation across the health professions. This systematic review seeks to uncover the best approach to pre-licensure, university-based allied health IPE to determine which aspects require modification in which contexts to provide optimal learning experiences.
Methods A systematic search of 10 databases was conducted for articles published in English, between January 1998 and January 2013. Studies were included if they used quantitative or qualitative methodologies to report on the outcomes associated with IPE in allied health. Two independent reviewers identified studies that met the inclusion criteria, critically appraised the included studies and extracted data relating to the effectiveness of IPE in allied health. Data were synthesised narratively to address the study aims.
Results Large gaps – relating to methods, theory and context – remain within this body of literature. Studies measured students' attitudes and understanding of other health professional roles, teamwork and knowledge in response to IPE interventions using patient scenarios, lectures and small-group work. Differences in power and curriculum placement were described as factors affecting IPE effectiveness.
Conclusions Evaluation remains the primary aim within this literature. Few studies use theory, take an inductive approach to understanding the processes behind IPE or include detailed participant descriptions. Therefore, we suggest that IPE research is currently caught in an epistemological struggle, between assumptions underpinning biomedical and health science research, and those underpinning education studies. As part of a systems approach to understanding interprofessional socialisation, we call for researchers to take a realistic approach to evaluation that is inclusive of, and responsive to, contextual factors to explore how IPE leads to improved long-term outcomes in differing circumstances.