Oct 29

Using technology to go beyond ‘face to face’ patient/student sessions.

My last blog argued that the good old ‘face to face’ session in which a patient talks about their lived experience to studentsĀ is an example of tokenism if its the only involvement approach used. Too often in the past these sessions have only been used by academics as a way of allowing students to hear ‘from the horses mouth’ what its like to experience health conditions of all kinds. What’s wrong with this, you may well ask? Well, nothing, if you do it properly, do not overuse this methodĀ and its not the only type of involvement method you use. ‘Doing it properly’ in my view requires academics to really get to know your expert patient and be kind to them. For example,Ā sorting outĀ transport issues such as taxis or car parking slots beforehand if required. Spend time before the session and after it to ensure the person is ok. Brief the students before the session. One of the most important aspects that enablesĀ a face to face session to work is for the teacher to stay in the room with the person and before any one shouts ‘power and control issues’, I see my role as the intermediateĀ to clarify issues between students and expert patient, not to controlĀ the session to my preconceived ends!Ā Ā Whilst its true that all teaching sessions need to have learning objectives, a session that exposes students to the lived experience of a personĀ is by its very natureĀ a unique learning opportunity for all, including myself as an academic, and the expert patient themselves. It is useful however for allĀ these good practices to be included as a protocol for staff who are inexperienced with such a session and would otherwise lack the confidence toĀ do them (this lack of confidence is then a barrier if it prevents some academics from utilising lived experience sessions).

Sometimes however the retelling of a strong, emotionally resonant story can be very difficult for a person, particularly if they are regularly asked to tell it to differing audiences. In this case I have utilised recording the story (for example, using an mp3 recorder)Ā and making it available to students to listen to as an audio podcast.Ā Any face to face session could then be utilised as a question and answer session if appropriate.Ā Alternatively, why not utilise online resources?Ā  Q and A online forums, blogs and wikis are examples of how technology can be utilised to enable students to be exposed to the lived experience if the person themselves fely comfortable with such technology.Ā Ā Recently with a colleagueĀ  l was involved in a meeting with a group of expert patients on the planning of a Q & A panel for students. One person was unable to attend the meeting in person so we utilised Skype to enable that person to be equally involved in the discussions. Using technology such as this can enable evenĀ the most disabled of patients to participate in involvement activities. A colleague once said to me they didn’t ask patients to attend face to face sessions as most of them would be too disabled! Using technology as in the previous example can help overcome such barriers.

As technology becomes ever more important within the education of students, there is no reason why we cannot also utilise it more to beĀ creativeĀ and allow our students to be exposed to the lived experiences in more accessible ways. These canĀ help overcome access and ’emotional fatigue’ problems that can often arise when a person addresses students in person. However,Ā  if that method is usedĀ as I have argued, please be kind in the way it is conducted and always adhere to the needs of the person involved.


  1. Sarah Woodcock

    This is an interesting read with some excellent points Trevor; when we had a service user in last year to speak to us it did seem a daunting prospect for her having to talk to 19 nursing students! She managed well all things considered.

    There is an article in Nurse Education Today, V 28, Issue 5, (2008), you may be interested in Trevor, which discusses the evaluation of a project involving MH service users in pre-reg MH nursing education. The article touches on some of the points you have raised; namely service users and students engaging in online discussions blending e-learning and enquiry based learning alongside how successful the project was.

    Who better to listen to about how MH professionals are perceived than MH service users? Education is not just about books and lectures; being able to communicate and interact with willing MH service users brings an almost 3D component to learning. If there could be an easier way for this to take place where the service user could feel more comfortable then it can only be a way of enhancing education for nursing students.


    1. Trevor Kettle

      Thanks for your comments Sarah. I will check out the article. As you say, education is not just about books and lectures.

  2. Farhan

    Hi Trevor,

    Great article; Patients are unique source of learning for health professional and care givers. It is extremely important that we look after this precious resource appropriately. Emotional fatigue and telling emotional stories repeately can be really challenging for the Patients. Modern day video technology enable us to limit the impact of emotional fatigue on patients, carers and relatives.
    I condsider every patient as an expert patient because what he/she is going through no one else can go through. We should aim to learn from every single patients and use techonlogy to Enpower patients to share their stories without any fear or reservations.

    Good work keep it up!

    Best wishes


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