Communicating Effectively with Patients with Disabilities

Health Care Provider Training

child receiving eye exam

The Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD) responded to the identified need to train health care providers to work and communicate effectively with their patients with disabilities by providing innovative instruction to students in the College of Medicine and Nursing and Radiology Technology Training programs. Through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health, CDD routinely offers the following training opportunities within the curriculum of these University of Iowa programs, and will soon expand these training opportunities to additional health professional training programs around the state.

Interactive large group panel presentation

Faculty and individuals with disabilities provide a summary of basic health issues for people with disabilities, and offer role-playing scenarios that address:

  • Management of physical disabilities in the office setting
  • Accommodations for patients who are blind
  • Understanding patients with speech problems
  • Issues of privacy, respect, and rights

Clinical simulation training

interacting with deaf patient

Simulations build upon the large group panel presentation by providing the same students with direct, hands-on experience in working and communicating effectively with people with disabilities and their parents. Designed for groups of 6-8 students, individuals with disabilities serve as simulated patients for students working in pairs, allowing each student pair to complete two exams each session. These exams focus on:

  • Interviewing skills
  • History-taking
  • A brief physical

After completing the exams, volunteer patients rate the students and participate in discussions with the students that are led by CDD faculty.

For more information about these presentations or how to initiate a similar training opportunity within your program, contact Scott Lindgren, PhD, at scott-lindgren@uiowa.edu.