An Exploration of Social Work Students’ Experience of an Interprofessional First Year


  • Angela Barns Curtin University
  • Robin Shortland-Jones Curtin University
  • Kirsty Oehlers Curtin University


Interprofessional education, Social work, First-year experience, Professional identity


In 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified interprofessional practice (IPE) as the primary means of responding to the global health crisis. Interprofessional education was positioned as the most effective means of producing graduates and professionals skilled in collaboration and teamwork. IPE is now a feature of many health and allied health undergraduate programs, including social work. This survey research project employed open-ended questions to explore first-year social work students’ experiences of an interprofessional first-year program within a faculty of health sciences. The detailed, written responses of 30 social work students provided a grounded and nuanced account of the IPFY experience highlighting both the benefits for social work and areas for development. Issues relating to professional identity, social work’s scope of practice and interactions with other health professions students are identified. From the research findings, it is clear that there are opportunities for social work as a discipline within the health educational context to (re)engage and rethink our contributions to IPE in the first year. This includes attending to the ways social work students begin developing their professional identity and extends to the need for a more nuanced understanding of interdisciplinarity and collaborative practice across IPE units within the first year. 

Author Biographies

Angela Barns, Curtin University

Social Work, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA, 6845 

Robin Shortland-Jones, Curtin University

Social Work, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA, 6845 

Kirsty Oehlers, Curtin University

Social Work, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA, 6845 


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