An Exploration of Perceptions of Interprofessional Collaboration and Rural Mental Health
Interprofessional collaborative practice has been found to have benefits both for patient/client care and for health professionals (Baggs & Schmitt, 1997; Zwarenstein et al., 2005; Zwarenstein & Bryant, 2000; D’Amour et al., 2005; Henneman et al., 1995). Most of this research has been conducted in urban settings and few studies have examined how working in teams may function to treat mental health in rural communities. There are a number of challenges to working in rural communities: a shortage of health care professionals, low resources, high turn over rates, elevated feelings of burnout, minimal social support, job dissatisfaction, and geographical and transportation issues (Hutten-Czapski, 2001; Kee, Johnson & Hunt, 2002; Sutton & Patterson, 2002; Thorngren, 2003; Barbopoulos & Clark, 2003). Interprofessional collaboration may offer a means of addressing the challenges faced by rural communities because working with other professionals may increase professional satisfaction and reduce feelings of isolation and burnout. This thesis research project had two foci, first, to examine perceptions of interprofessional collaboration among health care professionals working in a rural area, and second, to explore the factors associated with treating mental health in a rural community. The setting for this research was a rural community in Newfoundland. Twelve health care professionals participated in this study: a guidance counsellor, a youth worker, three social workers, a police officer, a family physician, a community health nurse, a mental health counsellor, an occupational therapist, and two nurse practitioners. Qualitative methodology was used for the research design and all professionals participated in face-to-face interviews. 3 Participants strongly endorsed the value of interprofessional collaboration in treating mental health issues in their community. They identified benefits for patients/clients such as enhanced quality of care. Professionals also identified increased support, feeling valued and respected, and improved decision-making as benefits for them professionally. Participants saw teamwork as advantageous in treating mental health issues because it provided comprehensive care that assisted in keeping patients/clients in their home community. Drawbacks were that interprofessional collaboration can be time consuming and it is difficult to maintain patient/client confidentiality in a small community. Factors that helped enable interprofessional collaboration included familiarity and trust, physical proximity, being located in a rural community, and professionals’ strong connections and commitment to the community while challenges to treating mental health included a lack of facilities, programs, and human resources, as well as high workload among professionals.
Care teams , Mental health , Attitudes , Employees , Mental health facilities , Mental health services , Public opinion , Newfoundland and Labrador , Rural mental health services