UW Health Sciences Students Participate in the Pilot UW Listening Project

Oct 31, 2018

The Seattle/King County Clinic offered students the opportunity to hear from underserved patients about their healthcare experiences.

Over four days in late September 2018, more than 70 Health Sciences graduate students participated in the pilot of The UW Listening Project at the annual Seattle/King County Clinic at the Seattle Center Key Arena. This 4-day clinic brings together healthcare organizations, civic agencies, non-profits, private businesses and volunteers from across WA state to produce a large-scale free health clinic. Since 2014, clinic has seen 16,300 patients; provided almost $14 million in direct services; enrolled over 13,800 volunteers. The Clinic provides a full range of free dental, vision and medical care to underserved and vulnerable populations in the regions.

The Listening Project was conceptualized and developed by the Interprofessional Education Initiative at UW and SKCC organizers and is intended to help guide future practice, through cultivation of communication skills, empathy, and deeper understanding of health professionals in different disciplines, and patient narratives. SKCC organizers are interested in hearing from the patient populations served, with the hopes of improving the clinic operations and working to meet the needs of the patient population, though the goal was not to receive feedback about the clinic itself. The intention was twofold: 1) to provide students with the opportunity to listen and learn from patients who may experience challenges or barriers accessing healthcare, in interprofessional groups and 2) to amplify patient voices related to their perception of what “good care” looks and feels like.

Photo of student participants in the "Listening Project" debriefing with Karen McDonough, MD and Tracy Brazg, PhD, MSW at the Seattle King County Clinic.

Student participants in the “Listening Project” debriefing with Karen McDonough, MD and Tracy Brazg, PhD, MSW at the Seattle King County Clinic.

Students were oriented to IPE principles and the purpose of the event, and were provided suggestions/prompts about how to approach potential storytellers, including “Will you share the story of your name?”, “Describe a time when you felt your healthiest”, and other icebreakers. Students were matched into interprofessional pairs and walked throughout the clinic, inviting patients to share stories of health and healthcare with them. Patients were also asked if they wanted to write or dictate quotes in response to several questions including, “Based on your experiences with health care professionals, what do you think should be stressed in our education?”, and “How can health care professionals help you to be healthy?” To engage and process the stories they heard, and to make meaning of them for our future practice as health care professionals, students participated in several forms of reflection.

A dedicated group of student participants will be involved in deciding the best way forward with the quotes they received from patients, and will work with SKCC to best amplify these oft-unheard voices. We collected excellent feedback from students via our evaluation, including the following statements:

“I was able to hear about many different perspectives and experiences within the healthcare system which will inform my ability to improve my future patients’ health.”

“…The importance of not allowing stereotypes and assumptions to get in the way of our interactions with patients and to take the time to listen first.”

“I learned that the people who access this clinic are not necessarily homeless, or uneducated, or non-citizens, but rather people from all walks of life.”

“…How important compassion, positivity, and building a safe and comfortable space is for patients when seeking medical care.”