Considerations in Caring for People with Physical Disabilities: A Course Elective

Ingrid C. Hendrix
Sarah K. Morley
Jennifer Benson

PowerPoint presentation at the Western Group on Educational Affairs (WGEA) Regional Meeting, Tucson, Arizona, April 15ht, 2016


Context: People with disabilities represent a significant portion of the population. A 2007 Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Disability in America' noted that barriers to equal health care for people with disabilities include physical barriers, and knowledge and attitudes related to caring and interacting with people with disabilities. People with disabilities (PWD), as with many other groups disadvantaged by social inequities, often receive suboptimal care from health care providers. The root cause of this inequity in care can be traced to a lack of training for health care providers in dealing with PWD. The AAMC has recommended medical schools evaluate their curriculum and address gaps in providing education addressing health care disparities. Objectives: To address this identified knowledge gap at our institution, the authors developed and taught a 7.5 hour elective for second and third year medical students in Spring 2014 and repeated in Fall 2014. The overarching goal was to raise awareness about experiences encountered by people with physical disabilities in the healthcare setting. Objectives covered over five sessions included an examination of attitudes about disability, community resources for meeting the needs of PWD, communication, advocacy and access, and interdisciplinary team collaboration. Using an interactive format (small and large group activities, discussion, case-based scenarios, and interaction with people with disabilities) provided learners with a rich experience. Key message: Training learners to interact with patients with physical disabilities should be a vital educational objective of all medical schools integrated throughout the curriculum. This significant population has unique needs requiring a more holistic approach to their care. Incorporating real-world examples and personal discussions with PWDs, may increase awareness of issues confronting those with a disability thus enabling health care providers to be more comfortable interacting with this patient population. Conclusion: Feedback from learners indicated overall satisfaction with the interactive format and the content of this elective. Learners described the importance of hearing directly from people with disabilities. In addition, being made aware of community resources and physical access in the clinical setting led to greater understanding of patient challenges. Successful introduction of this content recommends incorporating a more integrative approach to this very important and neglected topic.'