Partnership Between UW-La Crosse and WIPHL Is A Model For Health Educator Training Programs

By Laura Saunders, MSSW

When behavioral screening and intervention (BSI) becomes routine in healthcare settings, where will the new workforce of trained health educators come from to provide these services? Luckily, Dr. Gary Gilmore is helping take care of just that.

At the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse (UW-L), Dr. Gilmore and his colleagues are preparing the university’s community health education students for the future task of delivering BSI in general healthcare settings.

With help from WIPHL and funding from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s Wisconsin Partnership Program, UW-L faculty developed the curriculum for the initial course and was trained in Motivational interviewing (MI). MI is an evidence-based approach to facilitating conversations that help people recognize and take action upon their internal motivation for change. The MI approach provides  us with a method of communication that serves as a solid foundation for BSI.

Last semester, 10 students completed a 16-week, 3-credit course on a MI approach to delivering BSI. Feedback from the health education students indicates that this course is indeed a step in the right direction.

  • “This (course) is an innovative and highly effective evidence-based technique that is applicable to almost every health topic.  It is one of the best tools I’ve added to my professional toolkit.”
  • “I believe this class is something that I can take with me no matter what I end up doing in my professional career.  We have the opportunity to interact with people on a daily basis, having active listening skills are a valuable practice that not many people do well.”
  • “This is exactly what we need as health educators.  It teaches us that we can’t just fix people with education.  I think this should be a mandatory class.”
  • “I believe everyone working in health professions should learn MI.”

This semester, those students are delivering BSI in a 16-week preceptorship at various clinical sites.  WIPHL’s Dr. Rich Brown and Laura Saunders are consulting with the sites about modifying patient flow to maximize BSI delivery.  The UW-L faculty are conducting regular case teleconferences with their students, and reviewing and giving feedback on audiotapes of interviews between the students and actual patients.

The two-semester program will be revised, based on evaluation data, and offered to more students in the 2013-2014 academic year.