Case study: Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

The People with Experience – user involvement work stream of CETL4HealthNE is incorporating Patient Opinion in the education of future healthcare professionals. We asked Anna Jones how it was going.

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What is your role in CETL4HealthNE?

CETL4HealthNE is a consortium involving the Universities of Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside with NHS partner organisations. We design and deliver innovative learning and teaching programmes and develop new ways of sharing best practice in healthcare education across the full range of professions. I have had a leadership role within the People with Experience – User Involvement work stream for the past five years. The work stream aims to support the involvement of people with experience of healthcare services in the development, delivery and assessment of programmes of study for healthcare professionals.

What is the potential link between Patient Opinion and CETL4HealthNE?

The People with Experience group collects the experiences of users of healthcare services in the North East in audiovisual or text format, and links to similar resources on the internet, in the Talking Health Matters narrative archive Healthcare educators can incorporate this material, together with other learning resources, into their modules. CETL4HealthNE organised a workshop for partners, facilitated by Dr James Munro, Director of Informatics and Research at Patient Opinion, to consider the potential for linking patient feedback into teaching.

How have you used Patient Opinion in your teaching?

The School of Health, Community and Education Studies at Northumbria University runs a two year MSc Physiotherapy programme. Students start their studies in January and have an early observational placement in a practice setting in March. One of their first modules includes sessions that prepare them for this placement.

I led a session called "Experts by Experience" which focused on service user involvement in individual decision making and in shaping services. The session included material from the Talking health matters narrative archive, followed by an opportunity to talk to the contributor of the audiovisual narrative face to face in the classroom.

It also included the opportunity to undertake a thematic analysis of the latest month’s Patient Opinion feedback in relation to physiotherapy – a total of 16 postings, two with responses from trusts. I asked students to identify what people valued or were frustrated about in relation to:

  • the characteristics of physiotherapists
  • the organisation of physiotherapy services, and
  • the structure of the healthcare service overall.

What did the students learn from the Patient Opinion feedback?

Students noted that patients valued a caring, friendly attitude and a feeling that their physiotherapist was genuinely interested in them, even when having to cope with a busy clinical setting. Patients wanted to be active participants in their care and to be kept informed of their progress. The competence of their physiotherapist was important to them.

Physiotherapy services need to pay attention to the physical environment of their facilities (e.g. parking, handrails) to help ease access issues. Long appointment waiting times and lack of continuity of appointment times caused patients difficulties, as did lack of communication between departments forming part of their patient journey. These insights will provide issues for students to look out for in their early observational placement.

Students reported back to Patient Opinion that this was a positive learning experience. They felt this was an example of how patient feedback can inform professional education.

Were the students aware of Patient Opinion?

None of the nine students had encountered Patient Opinion before their taught session and all said they would use it again in the course of their studies. All the students felt that postings on the site were useful for understanding what characteristics of physiotherapists and services were valued by patients.

Any lessons for other people?

Patient Opinion contains a wealth of information and insights that are helpful for healthcare students and educators. The site is easy to search for specific terms. It is encouraging for students to see the positive feedback, and negative feedback often comes with ideas about how to improve a service.

So what next?

We'd like to explore now how educators and students could feed back to Patient Opinion contributors about how their comments have been used in education.