Student pharmacists and mental health nurses training together in suicide prevention: an evaluation of interprofessional education

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Introduction Suicide prevention is a Government priority and affects every sector of society.(1) The role of mental health nurses (MHN) in suicide prevention is more obvious than that of pharmacists. However, the requirement for suicide prevention training in community pharmacy staff has been incentivized in England through its inclusion in the Pharmacy Quality Scheme. (2) There is no standardized requirement for suicide prevention training in the MPharm degree so we curated an interprofessional education (IPE) session involving pharmacy and MHN students in order to learn about suicide prevention in a mutually beneficial way. Aim We aimed to evaluate the IPE session to understand the attitudes towards suicide and preparedness to help someone thinking about or planning suicide of both sets of students. We aimed to compare any changes in attitude before and after the session both within and between pharmacy students and MHN students. Methods We delivered two IPE sessions on suicide, 3.5 hours in length. Students attended one session. This was compulsory for pharmacy students and optional for MHN students. We evaluated the session through a duplicated, anonymous online survey, via the Qualtrics® platform, at the start and end of the session. Students were informed that this was an optional evaluation. They self-assigned a code that we used to link their answers. We invited students to answer a series of questions to assess their attitudes and preparedness to suicide prevention. We summarised these data using descriptive statistics related to individual statements and composite scores. We used Independent-samples median test and Wilcoxon-Signed Rank Tests to compare data distributions between professional groups before the session, between groups after the session and then to understand change within subject groups, using paired data only. Results 104 students completed the initial survey of which 46% (n=48) were pharmacy students. MHN students reported being more prepared to respond to suicide (median:14, IQR 12–15) than pharmacy students (median: 8, IQR 6–10). Prior to the session, there were no statistically significant differences in responses to the attitude questions between MHN and pharmacy students, barring one question (‘I don’t feel comfortable assessing someone for suicide risk’). A statistically significant increase in preparedness was reported both pharmacy students (p<0.005) and MHN students (p<0.005), following the session (n=76 in paired analysis). MHN students (median: 15, IQR 15–17) continued to report higher levels of preparedness than pharmacy students (median=13, IQR: 10–15). Conclusion We present an innovative session in suicide awareness involving two professional groups. MHN self-reported higher levels of preparedness in suicide prevention than pharmacy students both before and after the session but an improvement was seen in both groups. These results indicate that IPE between MHN and pharmacy students could improve preparedness relating to suicide. More work is needed to explore the optimal content of training and longitudinal impact of training involving more students, as well as understanding if self-reported preparedness translates to professional behaviour, all of which are limitations of the current study


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