Listening to and learning from the family carer's story: An innovative approach in interprofessional education
Turner P., Sheldon F., Coles C., Mountford B., Hillier R., Radway P., Wee B.
Meeting family carers who recount their experiences of being on the receiving end of health and social care provides a 'real life' context in which undergraduate students from different professions can explore together and learn about interprofessional care and teamwork. This paper draws on data from a three-month in-depth evaluation of palliative care workshops in which medical, nursing, social work and rehabilitation therapy students interview family carers who are caring for someone with a terminal illness or who have recently been bereaved. The evaluation showed that students responded positively to 'real world' learning and coped well when carers were upset or recounted distressing incidents. Meeting the carer had a profound impact on the students- to the extent that some said they were 'changed' by the experience and felt it would significantly influence their professional behaviour. Hearing the carer's story also allowed them to pinpoint new and significant insights into their own profession and into healthcare provision generally. Family carers' views of their experience of the workshops were also sought and they too reported benefits from meeting the students. They found the experience cathartic and therapeutic and were both surprised and impressed by the maturity of the students who were able to respond to their distress. The paper also discusses the practicalities involved in recruiting the carers, issues of preparation and debriefing and lessons which will be useful to others who may wish to involve family carers in education.