Evidence-based training of health professionals to inform families about disability

Harnett A, Bettendorf E, Tierney E, Guerin S, O’Rourke M, Hourihane JO.
Arch Dis Child. 2013 Jun;98(6):413-8. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2012-303037. Epub 2013 Apr 20.

Department of Research, National Federation of Voluntary Bodies Providing Services to People with Intellectual Disability, Oranmore Business Park, Oranmore, Galway, Ireland; Alison.harnett@fedvol.ie.

OBJECTIVE:   The development, delivery and evaluation of a training programme for medical and nursing professionals on best practice for informing families of their child’s disability.

DESIGN:  A 2 h training course on ‘Best practice guidelines for informing families of their child’s disability’ was designed based on the findings of a nationally representative study of parents and professionals. The classroom-based course comprised a presentation of the research and recommendations of the best practice guidelines; a DVD film of parent stories and professional advice; group discussion; and a half-hour input from a parent of two children with disabilities. An anonymous, pretraining and post-training questionnaire was administered to measure knowledge and confidence levels, using scales adapted from a study by Ferguson et al (2006).

PARTICIPANTS:  235 participants, including medical students, nursing students, and junior hospital doctors (JHDs).

OUTCOME MEASURES:  Knowledge of best practice and confidence in communicating diagnosis of disability.

RESULTS:  Significant improvements in knowledge (time 1 mean (M)=14.31, SD=2.961; time 2 M=18.17, SD=3.068) and confidence (time 1 M=20.87, SD=5.333; time 2 M=12.43, SD=3.803) following training were found. In addition, a significant interaction between time and cohort (medical students, nurses and JHDs) was found for knowledge. Further examination suggested medical students’ knowledge was developing to the extent that post-training, their scores were higher than nurses, but not significantly different to JHDs.

CONCLUSIONS:  The increase in reported levels of knowledge and confidence following training in best practice for informing families of their child’s disability indicates the potential for providing communication skills training in this area.