|Learning: tutors living with a disability helped medical students learn how to communicate appropriately with patients.|
A developmental disability is defined as a permanent cognitive and/or physical impairment that can occur any time before the age of 18 years. Children diagnosed with developmental disabilities are referred to paediatric services, but sourcing support for adults living with developmental disabilities is more complex.
In addition to any health challenges associated with the disability per se, individuals living with developmental disabilities typically experience more illness and have poorer quality of life and a shorter life expectancy than the rest of the population. These vulnerabilities create a definitive need for healthcare that is appropriately targeted and focused to provide optimal outcomes.
Director of the CDDHV, Dr Jane Tracy, who is the mother of an adult son with a developmental disability, facilitated the day. The morning was devoted to teaching about developmental disabilities, illustrating the challenges typically experienced by people diagnosed with a developmental disability presenting to a healthcare provider and for the healthcare provider in such a consultation. Strategies to facilitate effective communication between patients and, when necessary, carers, and doctors were outlined, and resources for further support were identified.
Then it was down to work, with tutors and students interacting in small groups to practise their communication skills. The first task was to learn something about each other, and the second was to construct a medical history, or for students to provide information to the tutor about a medical condition.
Students reported feeling better equipped to attempt to meet the needs of patients presenting with developmental disabilities. The tutors’ said they also enjoyed the session, and meeting and working with the students. They look forward to contributing to this aspect of medical education again next year.
Students from all Monash Rural Health's south-eastern sites (Bairnsdale, Sale, Leongatha, Warragul and Traralgon) participate in a mega day devoted to this topic which takes place at Monash Rural Health Traralgon.