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Keywords:

  • education and training;
  • interprofessional education and service developments;
  • mental health;
  • reflective practice;
  • rural health care;
  • videoconferencing

Abstract

We describe the impact of an interprofessional education programme in mental health for professionals in six rural Canadian communities. The 10-session programme, offered primarily via videoconference, focussed on eight domains of mental health practice. One hundred and twenty-five professionals, representing 15 professions, attended at least some sessions, although attendance was variable. Data were collected between September 2006 and December 2007. The programme was evaluated using a mixed methods approach. Participants reported high levels of satisfaction for all topics and all aspects of the presentations: they were most satisfied with the opportunity to interact with other professionals and least satisfied with the videoconference technology. Professionals’ confidence (n = 49) with mental health interventions, issues and populations was measured pre- and post-programme. There was a significant increase in confidence for seven of the eight mental health interventions and four of the six mental health issues that had been taught in the programme. Participants reported developing a more reflective mental health practice, becoming more aware of mental health issues, integrating new knowledge and skills into their work and they expressed a desire for further mental health training. They noted that interprofessional referrals, inter-agency linkages and collaborations had increased. Conditions that appeared to underpin the programme’s success included: scheduling the programme over an extended time period, a positive relationship between the facilitator and participants, experiential learning format and community co-ordinators as liaisons. Participants’ dissatisfaction with the videoconference technology was mitigated by the strong connection between the facilitator and participants. One challenge was designing a curriculum that met the needs of professionals with varied expertise and work demands. The programme seemed to benefit most of those professionals who had a mental health background. This programme has the potential to be of use in rural communities where professionals often do not have access to professional development in mental health.