Thursday, October 8, 2020
As clinicians, there are elements of education interwoven within many of our roles, teaching foundation skills or ways to use assistive technology to enable engagement in activities of daily living for example. An OT undergraduate program includes learning about how people learn and techniques to assist in the learning process.
Within the wheelchair and mobility prescription role the prescribing therapist is not just an assessor. The assessment, trial and clinical justification/funding report are all an integral part of the role but the delivery and teaching of how to use and maintain the device is also part of this scope and relative to the end user’s lived experience. Whilst the delivery of Assistive Technology (AT) may signal the end of the process for the health professional, it is often the beginning for the end user, especially if it involves a new piece of AT.
The Clinician as an Educator
Within the assessment process you may identify that an end user is struggling with a transfer. Task analysis may guide you to consider trialling a new feature within a mobility base to assist in this task. The trial may show that this feature is indeed functionally beneficial but may also identify that the task requires further adaptation. Based on the end user’s experience, functional capacity and support requirements, they may require help in task adaptation or it may be as simple as providing guidance in learning how to operate the feature and the task adaptation will develop from ongoing use.
Support workers may need to be taught how to operate the mobility base or position it appropriately for a hoist transfer. Whilst there are similarities in operational access between wheelchairs, there are also variances. Those supporting the task also need to learn how the equipment works and the specific way it will be used for the individual end user.
While literature discusses multiple different learning styles, there continues to be debate around the ideology of learning styles. Do we have a specific style that we learn best from or is it the content of the learning matched to the style?
We do know people learn in different ways. Riener and Willingham’s article, The myth of learning styles (2010), argues that there is no credible evidence that learning styles exist. Further, they argue that learners differ in their ‘abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but not in their learning styles’.
Other academics, such as Richard Felder, believe that while learning styles do not provide a complete portrait, they can potentially provide an outline or framework. However, addressing learning needs is infinitely more complex than implied by learning styles ideology.
Less debated is that we use a combination of styles when learning. The three most cited learning styles are: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic and we may use one or a combination when teaching. A quick reminder, or for readers not familiar with learning styles:
Visual learners: who prefer images, pictures, diagrams, films and videos or demonstrations.
Auditory learners: who learn best through the process of listening.
Kinaesthetic learners: who learn by doing.
Let’s consider the delivery of a wheelchair. It’s the first wheelchair for a gentleman with a progressive neurological condition. He is still walking but experiencing falls. His wife is struggling with the sudden and rapid changes going on. Neither has any experience with a wheelchair but both understand that with his falls lately it will be best to use one. The wheelchair will be initially used for community access. We could just talk through how to disassemble the chair to put it into the car trunk. We have told them how to do it, we even remind them that they must disengage the wheel locks before removing the wheels…is this enough?
Most of you would combine this with a demonstration. But to ensure understanding and that they can manage the task, many of you would also get the client and his wife to have a go at doing it. The value in this is that you can ensure they can do the task but also the kinetic hands on learning this offers. The “doing” is important as the task involves doing a new activity with a new piece of equipment and will impact on the ability to use the chair in the community.
For more complex equipment training or where multiple carers are involved, you may have developed resources to assist in the facilitation of learning such as photos of equipment or positioning.
The Clinician as a Learner
We often put thought into the best techniques and styles to support learning for clients but do we also apply this to our own learning opportunities? Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requires us to complete hours of ongoing learning. We need to make these hours as beneficial as possible, so as well as matching content to our learning goals it is also important to consider the delivery of the content and what will best work for you. For me personally, I like to get hands on with equipment to understand its adjustments and capacity especially when it’s a new piece of equipment I haven’t previously worked with.
2020 has brought new challenges to ways of working and learning. We know how important ongoing professional development is and so in March this year we increased our bi monthly webinar program to bring a new live webinar every week. This was a great way to continue to offer theoretical concepts as learning opportunities however makes it more challenging in some areas. Therapists at workshops who are new to seating assessments have consistently said how beneficial doing and having the assessment done for them can be.
Applying case study concepts to hands on experiences with equipment is also very highly rated in the clinical workshops. But following social restrictions and recommendations has unfortunately limited these opportunities within countries globally.
O2O and Education Opportunities
This month we are excited to be launching our very first Online-2-Offline (O2O) event. This form of learning begins with an online component led by our Clinical Education team, followed by a hands on session with your local experienced sales team to enable you to apply clinical learning in a practical and supportive environment. The education team will remain online throughout the event to answer any questions.
This format has already proven successful with fantastic feedback from both our Chinese and Australian markets. You can hear a bit more about this event below.
Clinical Education Specialist
Tracee-lee Maginnity joined Permobil Australia in July 2019, as a clinical education specialist. She graduated Auckland University of Technology with a BHSc (Occupational Therapy) in 2003 and has since worked in various roles related to seating and mobility including assessing, prescribing and educating.
Tracee-lee is passionate about maximising functional outcomes with end users and the importance of education within the industry.