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Introduction to the Project

The Preservice Health Training Project was developed out of a need to train healthcare workers to be responsive to the needs of persons with developmental disabilities. In designing the project, a team consisting of nurse practitioners and a physician assistant, experts in disabilities, parents, individuals with disabilities, and technical experts identified a series of core objectives, which based on both the clinical education literature and personal experience, seemed to be those things that clinicians most needed to know about such patients. Our project has been designed around two main goals:

  • First, to impart substantive knowledge to students regarding developmental disabilities, common characteristics and secondary conditions of persons with developmental disabilities, and ways in which to most professionally treat such individuals in a clinical setting.
  • Second, and perhaps more importantly, to allow students to become familiar with interacting with persons with developmental disabilities and at-risk conditions in a simulated, though realistic, format.

Module Components

Several items are included with the modules. First is a section of supplemental material. This includes general background material on developmental disabilities (e.g., types of developmental disabilities, person-first language, etc.). The supplemental material also includes specific information for each of the two virtual patient cases (an adolescent with Down syndrome; an infant born with extreme prematurity) that are presented. Multiple choice questions are also included as a pre and post test format to test students' knowledge.

The video section (virtual patient interview) represents the core of the module. Each virtual patient interview includes a series of video clips; at the end of each video clip, the student is asked to respond to a "decision point" about how best to proceed with the interview. Interspersed with the videotaped interactions of patient and clinician are additional information points. In addition, at the conclusion of the "Julia" module (the module on the well-adolescent visit for the young person with Down syndrome), the mother talks about her own personal experiences and offers advice to clinicians about the care of individuals with developmental disabilities.

The modules include a diagnostic tool, which we refer to as the Disability Situations Inventory for Clinicians (DSI-C). The purpose of the DSI-C is to gauge the degree to which the clinician feels comfortable in performing routine examination procedures for patients with a variety of developmental disabilities. The DSI-C should be given as both a pre-test and a post-test in order to gauge the effectiveness of our modules in familiarizing student clinicians with persons with disabilities.

The modules also contain an Instructor's Manual with several suggestions for further activities. Among these activities are two additional case studies with discussion questions. Two contemporary issues also are included to generate further classroom discussion. A series of possible paper topics are suggested, as well as the framework for suggested additional interviews.