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University of Westminster research shows walking in patients’ shoes can help understand chronic diseases

Psychology 28 November 2018

In Their Shoes study

The University of Westminster has recently conducted collaborative research supporting the idea that taking on the real-life experiences of a patient provides an effective way to understand the disease.

The study, carried out by Dr Tina Cartwright and Candida Halton from the Psychology Department at the University of Westminster, was recently published in the academic journal ‘Frontiers in Psychology’.

The research was funded by the global pharmaceutical company Takeda as part of the company’s ‘In Their Shoes’ program, an immersive simulation launched in 2015, in which participants ‘become the patients’ to experience what it is like to live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

As part of the program, The University of Westminster led an independent evaluation study assessing the impact of Takeda’s immersive ‘In Their Shoes’ program for exposing the physical, emotional and psychosocial impact of living with IBD.

Over 100 employees from Takeda offices across 12 countries in Europe, Asia and North America took part in the study. By using a variety of different research methods, the study was able to demonstrate that participants of the program gained a significantly better understanding of the physical symptoms as well as the psychosocial impact of IBD.

One participant from the US commented: “The ‘In Their Shoes’ program was very eye-opening for me to understand how someone with IBD needs to manage not only the treatment of their disease but the other aspects of their life… I have an understanding of how IBD not only causes discomfort and pain, but also of the tremendous psychological and emotional impact it can have on patients and their loved ones.”

The study also showed that participants gained a much greater level of empathy, better connectivity to IBD patients and a greater sense of confidence in speaking to others about the impact IBD has on patients’ lives.

Talking about the research, Dr Tina Cartwright said: “Our study demonstrated that the physical and emotional challenges undertaken during the 36 hour immersive learning program forged a strong connection to the reality of living with a debilitating chronic disease. Not only did this increase empathy but also encouraged participants to consider broader issues around patient advocacy.

“These findings build on previous research which demonstrates the value of taking on the experiences of a patient for improving relationships between healthcare professionals and patients and improving health outcomes.”

Read the full research here.

About the University of Westminster:

The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.

We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 180-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.

Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.

Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.

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