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Patients with Disabilities as Teachers
Family Medicine
  • Sweety Jain, MD, Lehigh Valley Health Network
  • Elissa Foster, PhD, University of South Florida College of Department of Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network
  • Nyann Biery, MS, Lehigh Valley Health Network
  • Veronica Boyle, Lehigh Valley Health Network
Publication/Presentation Date
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Medical schools and residencies lack training in communication skills with patients with disabilities, thereby creating potential barriers to care. To address this shortcoming, the Department of Family Medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network developed an innovative program in which the patients themselves serve as medical educators. The P-DAT (Patients With Disabilities as Teachers) program is designed to teach basic communication skills and disability etiquette to promote sensitivity to issues unique to this patient population. As such, it conforms to the established principles of the patient-centered medical home. METHODS: Two persons with disabilities who were patients of the residency-affiliated clinic underwent training to become educators. In the resulting interactive education session with medical students, the P-DAT educators describe their daily routines and health care experiences while encouraging their learners to ease anxieties in interacting with patients with disabilities by asking questions. RESULTS: The 44 student participants evaluated the program by responding to a series of Likert scale and open-ended questions. Tallies of the post-program survey results reveal that prior to the disability etiquette training a majority (89%) felt uncomfortable in communicating with patients with disabilities. The survey revealed that 98% of respondents found the program beneficial because it increased overall awareness and sensitivity (52%) and improved competency for future interactions with patients (46%). CONCLUSIONS: Although these evaluation results reflect the early stages of P-DAT implementation, the preliminary feedback indicates that medical students are eager to close the gap in their knowledge about disability etiquette so they can improve their care of this patient population.
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Citation Information

Jain, S., Foster, E., Biery, N., & Boyle, V. (2013). Patients with disabilities as teachers. Family Medicine, 45(1), 37-39.