Distance Learning for Health Professions Education

Distance Learning for Health Professions Education

Sven A. Normann (University of Florida, USA) and Diane E. Beck (University of Florida, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch098
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Abstract

Although the number of distance learning courses and programs has grown exponentially in higher education, adoption has been slower within health professions education (Hunter et al., 2003; Lahaie, 2007). Health professions education encompasses the preparation of graduates for the professions of dentistry, nursing, medicine, and pharmacy, and the allied health professions that include clinical psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology. In particular, distance learning has been infrequently used for degree programs that prepare graduates to enter a health profession (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2002). Although this has been attributed to curricular requirements such as clinical training and professional socialization, health professions educators have also expressed concerns about quality and the demands on their time (Hunter et al., 2003; Andrews and Demps, 2003; Lahaie, 2007). Health professions educators have more readily adopted distance teaching and learning methods in programs that provide working healthcare professionals with advanced degrees, training, and continuing education (Learn, 1994; Curran, 2006; Long, 2007; Billings, 2007). These methods have also been more willingly implemented within courses that are part of a campus-based curriculum leading to a professional degree (Hunter et al., 2003; Andrews & Demps, 2003; Ruiz, 2006).

For more information regarding the Pharm.D. distance learning curriculum at the University of Florida, please visit: http://pharmd.distancelearning.ufl.edu
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Introduction

Although the number of distance learning courses and programs has grown exponentially in higher education, adoption has been slower within health professions education (Hunter et al., 2003; Lahaie, 2007). Health professions education encompasses the preparation of graduates for the professions of dentistry, nursing, medicine, and pharmacy, and the allied health professions that include clinical psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.

In particular, distance learning has been infrequently used for degree programs that prepare graduates to enter a health profession (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2002). Although this has been attributed to curricular requirements such as clinical training and professional socialization, health professions educators have also expressed concerns about quality and the demands on their time (Hunter et al., 2003; Andrews and Demps, 2003; Lahaie, 2007).

Health professions educators have more readily adopted distance teaching and learning methods in programs that provide working healthcare professionals with advanced degrees, training, and continuing education (Learn, 1994; Curran, 2006; Long, 2007; Billings, 2007). These methods have also been more willingly implemented within courses that are part of a campus-based curriculum leading to a professional degree (Hunter et al., 2003; Andrews & Demps, 2003; Ruiz, 2006).

Distance teaching and learning methods are now at a new crossroad in health professions education. In both the United States and other countries, there is both an increased need for preparation of more healthcare providers and a greater demand to provide current practitioners with lifelong learning (Harden and Hart, 2002; Ried & McKenzie, 2004; Harden, 2005; Ruiz, 2006). New distance teaching and learning methods hold promise for solving these manpower and lifelong learning needs at both a local and a global level (Harden, 2002; Ried & McKenzie, 2004; Malone et al. 2004; Lenz et al, 2006; Pahinis, et al., 2007; Mancuso-Murphy, 2007; Thomas and Baker, 2008). However, there is trepidation since face-to-face interaction is a tenet for clinical training (Bischof, 1996; Hunter et al., 2003). To accomplish the road to success, the clinical training tenet must be maintained and faculty concerns about quality and other issues such as time demands and rewards must be resolved.

The goals of this chapter are to 1) describe health professions education and the requirements for educating health professionals, and 2) recommend strategies for advancing the use of distance teaching and learning methods in health professions education. Examples of health professional courses and programs that have successfully used distance teaching and learning methods will also be highlighted in the section on recommended strategies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Health Professions Education: The academic entities that prepare graduates for the professions of dentistry, nursing, medicine, and pharmacy, and the allied health professions that include clinical psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.

Clinical Education: The component of a professional curriculum that prepares students for patient care and other aspects of a professional practice; most of the learning occurs during clinical rotations or practice experiences in the patient care setting.

Professional Competence: “the habitual and judicious use of communication, knowledge, technical skills, clinical reasoning, emotions, values, and reflection in daily practice for the benefit of the individual and community being served (Epstein and Hundert, 2002).”

Allied Health Professions Education: The academic entities that prepare graduates for professions such as clinical psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.

Specialized Accreditation Agency: An organization that evaluates a specific professional program and makes a judgment about quality that is in addition to the regional and national accreditations that are required of health education institutions.

Metacompetency: Generic competencies that involve basic abilities such as problem solving, clinical reasoning, and self development.

Lifelong Learning: Learning experiences that occur across an individual’s professional career ; these are essential because healthcare changes rapidly and it is important that practitioners have the most current knowledge and skills.

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