International service learning and interprofessional education in Ecuador: Findings from a phenomenology study with students from four professions
Combined international service learning (ISL) and interprofessional education (IPE) experiences can move health professional student learning beyond the traditional confines of the classroom and outside uniprofessional ethos. The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the shared experience of health professional students participating in an ISL trip to a small community in Ecuador. The study focused on the learning and collaboration that occurred among students from multiple health professions during the trip and the cross-cultural exchange between the students and the patients in Ecuador. Participants included 15 students from 4 health professional programmes (pharmacy, medicine, physical therapy, and nursing). Data included interviews, focus groups, observation, and written documents. The essential meaning that emerged from this study was that the ISL/IPE learning opportunity created a practical opportunity for demystifying other healthcare professions in the context of a resource-limited international patient care setting, while supporting students’ personal and professional development. Four structural themes emerged to describe the student experiences. Students had to negotiate the language barrier, limited resources, and unexpected diagnoses, while simultaneously learning about the roles and scope of other professions on the team and how to communicate effectively. Student’s perseverance when facing the challenges resulted in their personal growth. The interprofessional component strengthened the students’ knowledge of interprofessional collaboration and communication through real-world application.