Effective interprofessional collaboration in rural contexts: a research protocol


Correspondence to R. Mitchell:

e-mail: rebecca.mitchell@newcastle.edu.au



To describe the research protocol that will be used to investigate factors contributing to effective interprofessional practice in a rural context in Australia.


Interprofessional practice is a key strategy for overcoming rural health challenges; however, our knowledge of interprofessional initiatives and consequences in rural areas is limited.


A modified realistic evaluation approach will be used to explore the structures, systems, and social processes contributing to effective interprofessional outcomes. This ‘context–mechanism–outcome’ approach provides a useful framework for identifying why and how interprofessional practice works in rural contexts.


Initial propositions regarding the factors that explain effective collaborative practice will be generated through interviews with lead clinicians, policy-makers, and clinician managers. Clinician interviews, document analysis, and multi-participant focus groups will be used as evidence to support, refine, or redevelop the initial propositions. This will allow the development of a model of rural interprofessional practice that will explain how and why collaborative approaches work in rural environments. This study is funded by an Institute of Rural Clinical Services and Teaching grant (January 2010).


Rural healthcare challenges are well documented; however, studies investigating the nature of interprofessional practice in rural contexts are not common. Rural contexts also present research design, particularly data collection, challenges. This proposed research is one of the first to identify the factors that facilitate or constrain effective interprofessional work in rural settings. This is particularly important, given the continuing workforce shortages and maldistribution and poorer health outcomes in rural communities globally.