Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Disabled tutors train medical students

Eleven people living with a disability helped as tutors when a group of 50 medical students from School of Rural Health sites at Bairnsdale, Sale, Leongatha, Traralgon and Warragul took part in an annual disability education forum.

The tutors participate in services run by Cooinda Hill in Traralgon. Cooinda Hill Chief Executive Officer, Chris Trotman, said her clients were pleased their opinions were valued which was why the centre had taken part in the program for a number of years.

Gippsland-based Monash medical students learn from clients of Cooinda Hill in Traralgon.

Director of the Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria, Dr Jane Tracy, told the fourth year Gippsland-based medical students that people with disabilities encountered many barriers to healthcare, and these included the attitudes and communication skills of doctors and other health professionals.

“Many of these medical students haven't spent time with someone with a disability in a personal interaction,” Dr Tracy said.

“In medical environments, people with disabilities are usually in passive and vulnerable roles, and often feel dependent and disempowered ,” she said. “We want medical students to engage as equals with all patients, and we want people with disability to know they have the right to good healthcare, and the right to complain if this does not occur.

“This training helps breaks down barriers – medical students and doctors feel more comfortable and confident – and people with disability feel they can speak up for themselves. Part of the social change that has happened over the last few decades has been in relation to the recognition of rights and values of people with disabilities.

“For their part, the people from Cooinda Hill clients have told us they love the opportunity to contribute to teaching the doctors of the future, they love meeting new people … and they love being paid for their contribution!”

Dr Tracy provides a theoretical framework for students to use to understand the causes and impacts of developmental disabilities. She outlines examples of the health problems that typically accompany syndromes such as Down syndrome, and where to get more information so students can provide optimal healthcare for their patients with disability.

“It is important for our future doctors to understand that they must always engage with the primary patient. It may seem easier and quicker to talk to an accompanying family member or paid staff member, but the patient is entitled to the courtesy of being spoken to directly; the support person can provide further information and clarification as required,” said Dr Tracy.

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