Healthcare organizations are increasingly striving to provide care that is centered around the person, not the diagnosis. To implement such a cultural shift, a natural place to start is with the next generation of practitioners. And that is exactly what they are doing at the University of Pretoria, where their final year students recently earned the Inspired by Ida label, certifying their newly completed training in person-centered care (PCC). We spoke with one of the driving forces, Senior Lecturer Dr. Faheema Mahomed-Asmail, and two of her students, Marissa Pienaar and Corlien Venter, about becoming Inspired and explicitly prioritizing PCC.
Providing the needed insight
When Dr. Mahomed-Asmail occasionally asks her first-year students why they chose to study Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology, they all echo the same sentiment: that they want to help people. However, despite these noble intentions, the technical requirements tend to steal much of the focus. “Over the past few years, I have noticed that students are more inclined to mainly focus on correctly completing all the test protocols and making a diagnosis and they thus tend to forget about the patient and their personal needs or opinions. The Inspired by Ida training provides the needed insight into the importance of PCC, how PCC can be achieved in a session, and what tools can be used to facilitate the process,” says Dr. Mahomed-Asmail.
Treating the patient not the disease
Marissa Pienaar is a fourth-year student who is passionate about audiology and aspires to use her clinical knowledge, technology, creative problem-solving, and social skills to improve the lives of others. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Inspired by Ida courses, especially the videos illustrating PCC through both viewpoints of the audiologist and the patient. It is evident that PCC has a greater impact on a patient’s motivation to take action in their hearing amplification journey as well as building rapport and trust with the audiologist. PCC is so much more than just a warm and fuzzy definition. Ultimately it is being sensitive to why patients make certain decisions or in other cases why they choose not to. Hearing loss has an even greater impact on them than we can ever imagine or try to understand. We should meet them where they are and not the other way around.”
Pienaar’s fellow student, Corlien Venter, agrees. “I found the training very insightful, and I really learned a lot. I thought I was already ‘treating the patient not the disease’ but after completing the training I realized that I have not been treating patients the way that they want to be treated at all. The training showed me my biases and now, when I am with a patient, I think about what I learned before I speak.”
Listening to the patient’s concerns
Pienaar and Venter are both confident that they will actively prioritize PCC in their future professional endeavors. Venter says, “We sometimes forget that our patients have not had the same training we had – and sometimes we plow ahead instead of pausing for a moment and taking that moment to listen to our patients’ concerns, worries, and doubts. Maya Angelou said, ‘People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel’ and this is something I try to live by. If my patients feel they can’t talk to me or trust me, not only will they not come back to my practice – it will also stand in the way of them receiving the optimal care that they need.” Pienaar states, “We are entering a new era where patients are our equal partners in determining their care and planning which treatment plan to use to ensure that their expectations are met. To be patient-centered is to see my patients as unique human beings with individual needs, values, and experiences and it is our responsibility as their clinician to keep these in mind when providing services to them.”
Equipped for what lies ahead
As the students enter the job market, their PCC capabilities will help them stand out from the crowd, giving them a competitive advantage over other candidates. Pienaar says, “I think that by continuously honing my patient-centered skills, I will not only be providing the best service possible to my patients, but also be a cut above the rest of my future colleagues who don’t.” Dr Mahomed-Asmail concurs, “With the fourth industrial revolution looming over us, it has been predicted by experts that soft skills, such as the skills required to achieve PCC, will be in great demand in the future. It is thus important that we train our students in achieving and practicing these skills, so they are equipped for what lies ahead.”
How to start the PCC journey
To join Inspired by Ida, the Pretoria students completed two online courses in PCC and signed a Code of ethics underscoring their commitment to the approach. Upon completion, they were awarded the Inspired by Ida label, which they can use in their resumé and social media profiles to show their qualifications and dedication to PCC.