Podcast about Parkinson’s and daily life aims to guide nursing students

Parkinson's UK effort offers insights into the disease and its care

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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An informational podcast aims to instruct nursing students in Parkinson’s disease, helping them to feel more empathy for patients and equipping them with the knowledge needed for better Parkinson’s-specific care, a study reports.

“By raising awareness of the disease, student nurses will develop an increased understanding, enabling them to provide support, monitor symptom progression and promote person-centredness” to people with Parkinson’s, the researchers wrote in the study, “Evaluation of a co-designed Parkinson’s awareness audio podcast for undergraduate nursing students in Northern Ireland,” published in BMC Nursing.

“This study may act as a driving force towards the development of innovative approaches to healthcare education, specifically in relation to [Parkinson’s], enabling nursing students to recognise, assess and manage [Parkinson’s] care effectively,” they added.

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Parkinson’s UK tool to educate nurses, challenge likely misconceptions

People with Parkinson’s regularly interact with nurses and nursing students for their medical care. Those more knowledgeable about the disease and the challenges faced by patients, from Parkinson’s symptoms to disease treatments, are better able to provide good care.

More than 20 people — a mix of Parkinson’s patients, caregivers, nursing students, nursing specialists, and representatives from Parkinson’s UK — collaborated to develop a podcast aimed at educating nursing students about the disease. The 75-minute podcast is available though Parkinson’s UK, along with shorter podcasts from select participants.

For this study, first-year nursing students at Queen’s University Belfast were given access to the podcast for 30 days. They were required to listen to it, but could choose when to do so.

Among these 405 students, 332 took a test of their Parkinson’s knowledge before and after listening to the podcast.

Their average test score before the podcast was 52%, with 1 in 4 students (25%) able to recognize a list of Parkinson’s symptoms. After finishing the podcast, the average score was 80%, with nearly two-thirds (62.3%) recognizing the disease symptoms’ list.

Test data suggested that the podcast also significantly improved knowledge about how Parkinson’s is diagnosed and treated.

“Overall, student nurse knowledge of [Parkinson’s] was relatively low prior to listening to the podcast. This increased significantly after listening to the podcast,” the scientists wrote.

The podcast was generally well received, with more than 90% of the students answering affirmatively when asked if it was a good learning resource or if they would recommend it to other students. About two-thirds said they would listen to the podcast again, though more than 1 in 10 (13%) said it was too long.

“The response to the podcast content seems to be overwhelmingly positive, but length and potential for repeat engagement was less positive,” the researchers wrote.

Students voice feelings of greater empathy for patients

Six months after listening to the podcast, 35 students participated in focus groups to discuss their perceptions of the podcast and how it might affect their future practice as nurses.

Many felt that the podcast helped them feel more empathy for people with Parkinson’s, and challenged previous notions they had about the disease.

“It struck me that people with Parkinson’s aren’t always so vulnerable, you know? I remember the man who was interviewed, and it struck me that this guy wasn’t what I expected. I mean, he wasn’t sitting in a nursing home all day or needing full-time care — he was living a life — making this podcast for one thing,” one student said.

The podcast “sort of humanises the people with [Parkinson’s] a bit more,” another said, adding that “it isn’t always about giving nursing care alone … I feel more confident in knowing what challenges they have faced and how I might help, like helping people with buttons on coats or something.”

Students also felt it could help them  in being better equipped to give Parkinson’s-specific care.

“I think it makes me have … better empathy skills, you know putting yourselves in their shoes and really realising what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s every day. Because we have an appreciation of this, it sort of will inform our nursing practice when they come into hospital or whatever … we kind of are aware of the whole picture,” one student remarked.

Said another: “I think the biggest thing I took was that actually there is an expert I can contact [a Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist] and that expert has an office number and can do things like prescribe medications or provide a referral to a specialist. I didn’t know this service existed and I guess others might not either.”

Study findings support the podcast as an educational tool for nursing students, the researchers said. But it was limited to a single university in Ireland, so they called for future studies of the podcast in other university and medical care settings.