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Patient Partners in Arthritis


Patient Partners in Arthritis

Patient Partners in Arthritis Program

The Patient Partners in Arthritis program is a unique opportunity for people with arthritis to provide medical students, allied health care providers and community-based physicians with valuable, hands-on experience to increase their skills and effectiveness in examining, diagnosing and treating people with arthritis.

Despite the prevalence of arthritis in the Canadian population, very little time is dedicated to the study of rheumatology in medical schools. Published studies indicate that many doctors lack confidence in their ability to properly diagnose and treat many of the more than 100 types of arthritis. Unfortunately this can result in delay in appropriate treatment, unnecessary healthcare costs and needless pain and suffering for the person with arthritis.

The Patient Partners in Arthritis help to address these issues by providing highly motivated, trained patient volunteers who facilitate an increase in the understanding of all aspects of arthritis. This is accomplished through small group sessions led by a trained patient(s) that includes not only a technique for a musculoskeletal (bone and joint) examination but also real life experiences of living with the disease.

The program is based on the principle that arthritis is a chronic condition and people living with it are often the most knowledgeable about many aspects of the disease. These volunteer patients, who have special training in anatomy and how to demonstrate a joint examination, are valuable educational assets to the health care provider community.

The program was tested in Canada through a pilot study in 1995. The success of the pilot stimulated interest at many medical schools in the country with the result that the program is now part of the training program at 10 Canadian medical schools and university programs in health sciences.

Who can train as a Patient Partner in Arthritis?

People wishing to train must meet the following criteria:
  • A diagnosis of osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis; and

  • The desire and ability to learn medical terminology and basic anatomy, which will be covered in 3 or 4 two day training sessions; and

  • Strong communication skills, including confidence and comfort in speaking with all levels of health care providers; and

  • Live within a thirty minute commute of local medical school/health science centre; and

  • Be available to volunteer 4 – 6 hours per month.

A medical background is not needed, all the necessary medical aspects are part of the training.

Where is the program available?

The Patient Partners in Arthritis program is available through 13 hospital/university affiliated sites across Canada – Hamilton, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Sherbrooke, and St. John’s.

How does the Patient Partners in Arthritis program work?

New trainees receive approximately 60 hours of intensive training and practice covering anatomy, medical terminology and the conduct of a full body musculoskeletal (bone and joint) examination. The sessions use a combination of lectures and practice and are led by experienced patient volunteers. Trainees receive all the necessary materials to help them master the learning goals and develop their demonstration skills so they will feel comfortable interacting with medical students, allied health care providers and community-based physicians.

Successful completion of the training and maintenance of knowledge and presentation skills are required for all program volunteers. Arthritis is a complex disease and so the training is rigorous. Mentorship and support are part of the training for new volunteers. To maintain standardization and keep the program current, site reviews and on-going training are done every six to nine months. A local academic rheumatologist provides supervision and support to volunteers working in each of the 13 sites.

Volunteers must complete the initial training and they are requested to make at least a three-year commitment to the program.

Volunteers are eligible for reimbursement of local transit or mileage and parking expenses incurred while participating in the activities of the program.

What are the benefits of the program?

Research has shown that involvement in the Patient Partners in Arthritis program has had a positive impact on the trained patient volunteers through an improved quality of life, better self awareness and the satisfaction of having a contributing role in the medical community. Patients participating in the program have an increased understanding of their disease and an improved ability to describe their symptoms and experiences to their physician. Understanding their condition and feeling more comfortable discussing it has helped many patient volunteers gain a greater sense of control and cope more effectively with their arthritis. Support, encouragement and inspiration are a reality in each group with the result that they demonstrate not only to each other but to the community at large that it is possible to live well with arthritis.

For medical students, allied health care provider and community-based physician participation has demonstrated an increased understanding about arthritis, its diagnosis and its effect on the daily lives of their patients.

More information

Please contact Anne Lyddiatt at lyddiatt@lyddiatt.cafor more information about the program.