Elon School of Health Sciences students engage in crucial conversations on caring for special needs patients and families

Human Service Studies, PT and PA students came together to learn about the complexities of caring for children and adults with special needs from APTA-NC Outstanding PT Award-winner, Karen Tartick.

“The majority of life happens outside of the clinic” was a takeaway from one of an interprofessional group of students during the Crucial Conversations event hosted by the Human Service Studies Department and the School of Health Sciences on Monday, March 7.

This engaged learning activity included 102 students from the Human Service Studies, Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant departments who gathered at Lakeside for the three-hour workshop. During the event, learners heard the story of community member Karen Tartick.

102 learners from Human Service Studies and the School of Health Science join in a design sprint to explore crucial conversations

Tartick is a local physical therapist who was awarded the Outstanding Physical Therapist Award from the American Physical Therapy Association- North Carolina. She shared her experiences raising a son with autism and the challenges of providing his care even now, as a 30-year-old.

After hearing these challenges, students completed a design sprint to explore feelings, actions and questions related to the presentation before developing a group product that included a major takeaway and a major question for families/caregivers of those with special needs. To round out the experience, the learners were provided scripts for role play as the PA, PT, social worker or parent to allow them a safe space to practice these skills.

Elon Human Service Studies and SHS students collaborate during the design sprint to identify a takeaway message and a question they have for families/caregivers.

Interprofessional collaboration is key to quality patient-centered care. Creating opportunities for learners to engage in interprofessional teams and explore complex medical scenarios is integral to valuing the perspectives of other humans, as well as other health care providers in the medical team.

This activity was planned by Melissa Scales, assistant professor of Physical Therapy Education, who is a board-certified specialist in pediatric physical therapy. Facilitators and case developers included Scales; Monica Burney, lecturer in Human Service Studies; Kim Stokes, director of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies; and Nita Skillman, director of Interprofessional Simulation. Dianne Person, director of the Anatomical Gift Program, was also involved in the background with crucial conversations and design.

As a side note, the learners also learned about Camp Royall in Chatham County, where people with autism can enjoy a day or week away at camp, providing families with much-needed respite. Camp Royall is currently in need of volunteers for summer camps. Elon students interested in volunteering can find out more information here.