NYMC Faculty Publications

Visual Thinking Strategies for Interprofessional Education and Promoting Collaborative Competencies

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The Clinical Teacher

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Family and Community Medicine


BACKGROUND: Interprofessional education (IPE) curricula require approaches that address the needs of learners from multiple professions and levels of clinical experience. Frameworks based in the arts and humanities, which can improve learners' skills in collaborative competencies such as communication and team building, remain limited in IPE. We describe the development, implementation and evaluation of a visual arts-based IPE session for over 400 interprofessional learners. APPROACH: During the 90-min session held in 2021, an art museum educator first guided learners through observations of art works using the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) approach. Subsequently, small groups of six to eight interprofessional learners and two trained facilitators explored how their observations were influenced by personal and professional identities and made connections to interprofessional collaborative practice. EVALUATION: Two hundred eleven of the 407 student attendees responded to the post-session survey (52%). Eighty percent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that 'the art of observation activity is an effective means of starting discussions with interprofessional teams.' On the Interprofessional Collaborative Competency Attainment Survey, a validated tool assessing changes in interprofessional collaboration-related competencies, there was a significant increase between pre- (M = 45.73, SD = 8.05, p < 0.001) and post-session scores (M = 51.46, SD = 7.97, p < 0.001), using a paired t-test analysis. Qualitative analysis of learners' takeaways identified themes of open-mindedness, hearing other opinions and perspectives, collaboration/teamwork, patient-centeredness and awareness of biases. IMPLICATIONS: Our curricular approach shows how integrating visual arts-based pedagogies into IPE activities with learners from diverse disciplines and clinical experiences is both feasible and helpful for developing collaborative competencies.