Patients as teachers: Communication skills training for health professionals. Improving the healthcare experience for consumers with communication disability through the development and delivery of an e-learning and face to face training package for health professionals that uses people with communication disability as content experts and educators

Ms Ruth Townsend1, Ms Kathryn  McKinley2, Ms Joanne Sweeney1

1Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia, 2St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Background: People with communication disability experience barriers to participation in healthcare decision making (O’Halloran, Hickson & Worrall, 2008) and are at increased risk of medical error and poorer health outcomes (O’Halloran at el, 2008; Patak et al, 2009). All healthcare consumers, including those with communication disability, have a right to participate in conversations about their own healthcare.

For the past five years St Vincent’s Hospital and Austin Health have been training health professionals and students to communicate with people with communication disability using an international program from Toronto, Canada (SCAtm). There are currently no known Australian communication skills training programs that have been developed with and are delivered by people with communication disability.

Aims: To improve the healthcare experience for consumers with communication disability through the development and delivery of an e-learning and face to face training package for health professionals that uses people with communication disability as content experts and educators. To improve the skill and confidence of healthcare professionals when communicating with people with communication disability.

Method: Consumers with communication disability were involved in all aspects of the project including steering committee, curriculum development and delivery of training. The project leads coordinated curriculum development and production of videos of healthcare conversations. The package was trialled at each organisation and evaluations completed.

Results: The project remains underway with an expected completion date mid-2019.

Conclusions: An Australian training package, available 24/7, has been developed targeting the communication skills of healthcare professionals. Consumers were partners in designing, building and delivering this training package that empowers busy clinicians working in hospitals to support people with communication disability.

Key words: communication disability; collaboration; healthcare; communication skills training; consumers as teachers, partner conversation training, e-learning

Financial disclosure: This project was supported by a Practice Partner’s Program grant offered by the Health Issues Centre, Victoria.


Biography:

Kathryn Mckinley

Kathryn is a speech pathologist, clinical lecturer and researcher. She is the Speech Pathology Manager at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and a clinical lecturer at the University of Melbourne. Kathryn teaches communication skills to speech pathology students at the UoM and to health professionals. She has undertaken facilitator training locally and in Dublin and Toronto. Kathryn is passionate about communication, health literacy and communication skills training, particularly for patients and residents who may be more vulnerable as a result of their communication difficulties.

Ruth Townsend

Ruth is a speech pathologist and clinical lead across Continuing Care Services at Austin Health, Melbourne. Ruth has extensive experience working in adult rehabilitation including ABI, Stroke, TBI and dual diagnosis (mental health and ABI). Ruth provides communication skills training to speech pathology students at Latrobe University and to health professionals working at Austin Health and the RMTV program (Rehabilitation Medicine Training Victoria). Ruth has completed communication skills facilitator training in Toronto, Canada and is committed to empowering health professionals to learn how to better support people with communication disability.

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