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Understanding the Start of Health Careers

Monday, 7 August 2017 2:37pm

The influence of interprofessional education on career trajectories and attitudes to collaborative team work are being explored in a 5-year study run by the University of Otago, in collaboration with Otago Polytechnic and the Eastern Institute of Technology.

The Longitudinal Interprofessional (LIP) Study involves 600 graduates from eight health professions (Pharmacy, Dentistry, Dietetics, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Oral Health, and Physiotherapy). It first surveyed students before they started their final year of training in 2015 or 2016, and continues with yearly surveys until their third year of professional practice in 2018 or 2019. The study recruited whole year groups from each discipline, so is a good representation of those entering the health workforce.

The LIP study explores attitudes and skills related to interprofessional practice as well as early career trajectories and influences on these. “There is a real lack of data about how new health professionals adapt to the work force and learn to work in health care teams. This study is one of very few longitudinal studies following students through their training and then their early careers,” says lead researcher and physiotherapist, Dr Ben Darlow.

“Keeping track of these graduates as they enter the workforce and keeping them engaged with the study is a real challenge, but also an exciting opportunity to better understand early career development.” The research team highly value the contribution of the participants and are doing everything they can to keep in touch. To date, response rates to each survey round have been over 80% and it’s vital that these levels are maintained.

“The survey will give us a great insight into the transition from study to practice, and how young health professionals view teams and team-work during that transition” says Professor Pauline Norris, of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Otago. “This will help us tailor the interprofessional education that we provide.”

As early careers can be very diverse, the survey adapts questions to suit each respondent. This captures the range of experiences – regardless of whether a participant is working in his/her clinical field, has changed to another career, or is taking a break.

Early findings provide an interesting snapshot of health graduates:
• Pharmacy is well-represented in the study cohort, making up 24% of participants.
• Pharmacy‘s response rate last year was a respectable 78%; this is slightly below the overall response rate of 81%. The higher the response rate the more meaningful results related to pharmacy will be.
• The majority of graduate health professionals are female, with 71% of the study cohort and 58% of pharmacy participants being female.
• Each of the eight disciplines has an average age in the early 20s. However, there is a wide range of ages from late teens to early 50s. The average age of pharmacists at graduation is 21 years.
• There are a variety of ethnicities in the study cohort, including NZ European (57%), Chinese (16%), Maori (9%), Indian (5%), Pacific (1%), and Other (20%).
• Just 44% of participants grew up in major urban cities, with good representation of people from regional cities (29%), towns (15%), and small towns (11%).

Future results from the study will help shape the training of future pharmacists in New Zealand and around the world. If you’re one of the participants in this important study, the 2017 survey is out in October. Every voice really does count! More information is at the study website (LIP Study).

Mely Brown
Research Fellow
Longitudinal Interprofessional Study
Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice
University of Otago Wellington