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Curriculum of Caring

CommunicateCARE: A Curriculum of Caring for People with Developmental Disabilities

CommunicateCARE: A Curriculum of Caring for People with Developmental Disabilities

Bethesda Day

Before starting clerkship, I was one of the lucky medical and nursing students to attend “Bethesda Day,” an introduction to  people with a developmental disability (DD). The staff at  Bethesda were warm, the hosts were welcoming, and fellow students were eager to start the day; however, I was apprehensive. 

There are a lot of ‘firsts’ in healthcare training: the first interview, the first prescription, the first procedure. They all lead to that same mix of excitement and anxiety and are all very important pieces of learning. There were certainly a lot of scared/happy butterflies in my stomach at ‘Bethesda Day;’ I was about to have my first encounter with someone with DD. The happy butterflies took over when I experienced how eager they were to share their experiences and encourage us to become better clinicians.

There were also new feelings of concern as I learned that people with a DD often don’t have their health needs recognized and treated. 

I have been lucky to participate in the Curriculum of Caring, a project to help health care learners feel more comfortable, confident and competent working with individuals affected by DD.  My good friend and  talented classmate, Ginette Moores, inspired me to get more involved.  Working with a team that included students, we held focus groups with 22 adults across the Hamilton Niagara region. We heard what type of health care encounters were; helpful, hurtful, and productive. Our hope was to give a voice to the patients so to learn from their perspectives and ensure they receive a high standard of healthcare.

We heard clearly about the importance of communicating effectively to better recognize health issues and appreciate their care needs.

Success would not have been possible without Dr. Kerry Boyd, a psychiatrist who is extremely committed to the care of patients and families affected by DD. She provided invaluable direction in how to make the project personally and professionally rewarding. Tom Archer, health care facilitator with the Southern Network of Specialized Care, was a tremendous advocate for both the learning needs of students and the care needs of patients. He provided a perspective that was both sensitive and practical. Along the way, we’ve been encouraged and supported by many caregivers, students, educators, and clinicians and their investment certainly paid off. We've been able to be a part of very exciting initiative that allows medical and nursing students to learn about how to better care for people with DD and, really, all patients.