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2008 Conference Archive
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Learning to listen: a partnership project (poster presentation)

Jenny Ford, De Montfort University
Co-presenter(s): Elizabeth Anderson, Melanie Coates, Karen Givan, Rob Woodfield


Introduction The modernisation agenda for health and social care aims at "joined-up", "person-centred" care informed by the views of users and carers (DoH 2005; DoH 2006). However service users continue to report poor communication by and between professionals (Pincock 2004, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman 2007). People with additional communication needs are especially vulnerable to ineffective professional communication (Mencap 2007, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman 2007). Communication skills are central to the education of all health and social care students (Universities UK 2003) and are an ideal focus for interprofessional education (IPE). Project Methods Disabled people, carers and parents worked in partnership with academics to design and deliver an interprofessional student workshop. The workshop enables students to hear people's experiences of disability and of interactions with health and social care professionals. The emphasis is on "listening"; both the students' ability to listen to the personal accounts told at the workshop and the service users' reports of how well professionals listened to them. Working in small interprofessional groups, students meet two service users and hear their "stories" in informal conversations. Afterwards students identify their key learning about how professional communication can be improved. Students report this learning back to the service users for comment and discussion. Service users give feedback about the students they met. The service users who participate include people with layngectomee, Parkinsons disease, aphasia, deafness and other disabilities or are parents of children with complex needs. As many participants have additional communication needs, students must adapt their communication. Students are also encouraged to report back using accessible formats, such as pictures, diagrams and key words. From the start, service users worked in partnership with academic staff to shape the workshop. The service users have ensured that the workshop format remains simple so that people's "stories" can speak for themselves. Results A growing community of people have now participated. Members recruit new participants independently of the universities through personal contacts and local groups. Experienced participants support less experienced people, for instance a "three-tier" model of support has recently been proposed by service users on the steering group. The outcomes for service users were investigated using individual interviews. Participants report a very positive response to taking part and a number of personal gains. These include: enjoyment; the "cathartic" or "liberating" effect of sharing a negative experience; wanting to bring about change; increased confidence and wanting to "give something back". For some, the workshop has been a springboard into further involvement in professional education. The outcomes for students were evaluated by focus groups and questionnaires. Students appreciated hearing from "real people" compared to lectures and role play. They reported an increased awareness of the service users' experience. They valued the opportunity to share their skills interprofessionally. Conclusion This workshop is valued by academics, students and service users. Next academic year it will be delivered to a larger group of students. All involved continue to debate issues such as funding, payment, accessibility and support as we develop this partnership. Acknowledgement The pilot stage of this project was funded by a Mini project grant from the Higher Education Academy, Health Sciences and Practice.

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