Jul 10

Patients/carers impact on academic culture in healthcare education: Transformational or negligible?

This is an important topic which requires a serious debate, not something I can do justice to in a short blog! However, I feel there are some issues I think are worth highlighting. We all recognise now that patient and public involvement (PPI) is important in all levels of healthcare services, research and education. However, exploring the higher level impact of PPI within strategic decision making within higher healthcare education is clearly a useful exercise that may tell us much about the effect that patients may be having on the way academics view patient involvement on the education of healthcare students. How to do this? Clearly experimental research designs such as randomised control trials (RCT’s) will not  be suitable as we are dealing with often complex cultural factors between academics who are highly academically qualified interacting with individuals who may not be ‘qualified’ in the same way but have empowered themselves with their own expert knowledge base of their own lived experience and have been able to network with other equally articulate expert patients to develop into what is now being acknowledged as a ‘patient leader’. People such as Michael Seres (http://www.michaelseres.com/) Anya DeIong (thepatientpatient2011.blogspot.co.uk) and Alison Cameron (http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/about-us/whos-who/alison-cameron) are inspirational examples of what patients can achieve when health services, research and higher education take patient involvement seriously. Combine their contributions with innovative use of technology (eg ‘Skyping’ a patient into a lecture room when distance or other reasons prevent them from attending in person) and social media (Eg using Twitter to facilitate student  exposure to patient tweets/tweet chats) can only help to break down barriers that may remain regarding patients making a firm contribution to healthcare student learning in particular. How do we judge however the contribution, if any, that patient leaders such as those mentioned are actually having of the education of our students? Does involvement such as I describe above and  also planning of new programs, student recruitment and programme validation change the way some academics view the contribution of patients to ‘their’ students education? What effect would this have on the academics future thinking re PPI?

I suggest that using an ethnographic approach  would be one way of observing and describing this impact on academic culture. This method would enable a long-term ‘view’ of this ‘culture clash’ (probably NOT the correct phrase!) and enable this to be put into some kind of context and  perhaps a map out a future direction of research travel in terms of PPI impact and how we ‘measure’ this within healthcare education. Future blogs will explore this subject in further detail

Any views/opinions on the above most welcome.


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