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A group of srudents sat facing a Hijinx actor and another student sat at the front of the room.

Cardiff School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences & Hijinx

The Challenge

  • To expand Pharmacy students’ exposure to vulnerable ‘patients’ ahead of graduating and entering employment. The school wished to use the actors’ real-life experiences to develop clinical and non-clinical scenarios where communication could be a challenge
  • To provide students with the opportunity to reflect on and critique a real-life scenario, within a safe learning environment
  • To improve confidence in approaching and communicating with neurodivergent populations.

The Solution

To continue a successful collaboration which began in 2019, Hijinx delivered communications training sessions, aimed at improving healthcare provision for vulnerable patients, particularly those with a learning disability and / or autism sessions, for Cardiff School of Pharmacy students over 2021-2022.

In response to previous feedback, CultureStep investment extended the partnership by funding new elements, including a rigorous research and evaluation project exploring the benefits of the training for all participants. It also enabled additional contact time between the Pharmacy students and Hijinx actors as neurodivergent ‘patients’, the development of additional learning resources, and the involvement of additional Hijinx actors as assistant facilitators and training to help develop their facilitation skills.

The Results

440 Pharmacy students participated across five days of in-person role play and forum theatre sessions, with an additional 126 students reached through recorded research conversations. The project also provided paid employment for 5 neurodivergent and 3 neurotypical actor facilitators and engaged a further 10 Hijinx actors and 6 parents / relatives through research sessions to identify past healthcare experiences.

Students reported:

Seeing scenarios with patients who have learning difficulties provided context to the previous teaching and really highlighted the importance of tailored patient-centred care.

Getting the feedback from the actors was so, so useful, gave a really good insight into how patients we will come into contact with interpret certain information we give them.

When asked what they learnt from the training, students commented that they learnt to “be patient and understanding”; “to be less biased and more open towards the patient” and “to be considerate of a patients’ condition but also what may be happening outside of the consultation in their personal lives and the importance of actively listening”.

The Endorsement

Having previously partnered Hijinx to enable forum theatre sessions for years 2 and 4 students, this project provided the school with a fantastic opportunity to give all year groups meaningful engagement with neurodivergent ‘patients’, increasing their confidence and understanding of neurodiversity in a powerful and memorable way, thus better preparing them for such encounters when in practice. Expansion of the offering has allowed us to progressively increase the complexity of the scenarios throughout the programme

Reputationally, the partnership has been cited by our accrediting bodies as an area of strong clinical practice that should be more widely shared amongst the sector, keeping Cardiff School of Pharmacy at the forefront of undergraduate pharmacy education.

The students who have participated in the sessions report an increased confidence in not only communicating with neurodivergent patients but in communicating with all other patient groups. They particularly valued the real-time feedback and guidance provided by the actors and facilitators

Dr Jenna Bowen, Cardiff School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

The partnership aligned with Hijinx’s own aims to to develop our training business, increase our profile as leaders of inclusive practice and continue providing professional employment opportunities for our neurodivergent actors. This contributed towards achieving our mission of increasing the representation and understanding of learning disability in the arts and wider society, with the hope of reducing isolation and incidents of hate/mate crime.

Additionally, Hijinx sought to use the findings from the in-depth research project to validate the benefits of our training, particularly within the healthcare education sector where evidence for investment is especially vital. This has the potential to enable us to develop our training offer even further and establish ourselves as providers of high-quality communications skills training.

Greta Bettinson, Development Officer – Hijinx