"" Why More Anatomy Departments Should Embrace Near Peer Teaching with Interprofessional Demonstrators


Austin J Anat. 2014;1(5): 1024.

Why More Anatomy Departments Should Embrace Near Peer Teaching with Interprofessional Demonstrators

Noël GPJC*

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University, Canada

*Corresponding author: Noël GPJC, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University, Strathcona Anatomy Building, Room 2/21, 3640 University Street, H3A 0C7 Montreal, QC, Canada.

Received: October 01, 2014; Accepted: October 08, 2014; Published: October 13, 2014

As healthcare delivery requires providers to cross professional barriers and collaborate with other disciplines, there is a recent trend towards an interprofessional training approach of future health practitioners. Healthcare professionals have traditionally been educated separately with limited opportunities for students in one program to meet those in other programs. Although uni-professional education has been demonstrated as important for professional identity formation, it is imperative to allow students from different professional programs to learn with, about and from eachother. Professionals need to be trained in the mutual recognition of what eachother can bringto function effectively within interdisciplinary teamsand how communication with one another can enhance patient outcomes.

Each profession applies their knowledge of anatomy differently. In traditional training models, students are more likely to assume that their understanding of anatomy is the most accurate despite their acknowledgement that other professional students are also learning anatomy in their respective curriculum. The emphasis on specific structures is often different and the clinical scope of each profession for each of those structures also differ. By identifying commons ground and complementarities in their knowledge of anatonmy, students from different professional programs will utimately be able to work more collaboratively with eachother [1].

Near peer teaching is an educational approach which encourage the development of knowledge through the support of peers who share a common condition such as being enrolled in similar courses or programs but at different stages of their learning [2]. This approach is considered very effective as near peer tutors and tutees communicate more effectively than do teachers and students, due to their cognitive congruence and minimal social distance [3]. Near peer tutors can relate to the tutees“struggles in learning the material being taught. Near peers constitute a source of demonstrators that has been proposed as a solution to the reported decline in the number of clinically-qualified anatomy demonstrators [4-6] and the benefits of graduated medical students demonstrating in the anatomy laboratory has been recognized in many universities around the world for decades now [7-14].

There are many reports of trials having different professional students taught together by the same lecturer and/or in the same classroom [15-17]. However, many studies on the implementation of shared learning between interprofessional groups reported student concerns about large class sizes and teacher bias in favour of a subgroup [18,19]. Pre-qualification undergraduate students from not only the same professional program but also from other programs have recently been suggested as a potential untapped resource of near peer anatomy demonstrators. By facilitating anatomy sessions, it has been proposed that these tutors would realize that different professions may have complimentary knowledge or enhanced experience in certains areas of anatomy, while tutees would appreciate and mutually respect another profession“s understanding of specific anatomical regions. Another benefit for the near peer tutors, as reported by [20], is that they learn the material twice. Teaching the material isalso encouraging them to direct their communication skills toward a scaled and appropriate transfer of information which requires a deeper learning of the subject and constitues an excellent practice for when they answer patients“ questions.

McLelland G, et al. [21] reported a near peer teaching experience that crossed professional boundaries with third year midwifery students teaching second year paramedic students. In 2014, both [22,23] demonstrated that senior physical therapy students can successfully facilitate the musculoskeletal anatomy laboratory demonstrations for junior medical studentsand that medical students can also teach and discuss the anatomy of thorax and abdomen to physical therapy students. This alternate sequence of teachingnot only reinforces interprofessional education but also maximises the use of collective resources such as the limited amount of bodies to dissect [24]. By embracing the interprofessional near peer teaching approach, Aanatomy Departments can adopt a cost effective way of teaching for which a cadaver can be dissected by one group of students who will become the near peer tutors of another professional group using the prosected material that they generated. The former professional group could then dissect another region of the body, for which they should gain more in depth knowledge, prior to facilitating learning of the first group, as described by [11]. This logistic would not only optimize the use of cadavers by each professional program but could also set aside the negative perception of one profession by another, which has been reported among students as early as the entrance to their respective educational programs [25,26]. To further prevent the potential reinforcement of negative sterotypes by the near peer tutors or the tutees during those interprofessional teaching sessions, selection criteria of tutors, such as score to the Readiness for Interprofessional Learnning Scale [27], prior participation to teaching training or previous grades for anatomy courses, need to be cautiously determined.

Studies assessing the most effective combination of tutors-tutees and the most appropriate stage of learning for each professional group will be necessary to determine the most effective implementation of interprofessional near peer instruction. However, near peer interprofessional teaching in the anatomy laboratory can provide Anatomy Departments with a valuable resource to solve their economic constraints related to the availability of cadavers [28], fill the voids left by the scarce availability of clinically-qualified demonstrators, and preventthelow faculty-to-students ratio resulting from the increasing student enrolment. Recently renewed medical curricula emphasize communication skills and interprofessional education which are competing with anatomy teaching for more space in the timetable. By embracing the near peer interprofessional teaching, Anatomy Departments could finallyreduce the impact that thesecurricula are having on the increasing litigation stemming from a lack of fundamental anatomical exposure [29].


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Citation: Noël GPJC. Why More Anatomy Departments Should Embrace Near Peer Teaching with Interprofessional Demonstrators. Austin J Anat. 2014;1(5): 1024. ISSN:2381-8921

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