Primary care providers need additional education and training

By Nechama Greenwood
Boston University

Many primary care physicians lack education related to the care of people with intellectual disabilities (ID). We wanted to understand the educational needs of physicians in order to improve health care of people with ID.

What did you do in your research?
We interviewed physicians about their experiences in caring for individuals with ID. We also interviewed adults with ID about their experiences receiving primary care. We compared person with ID views and physician views to learn about their experiences and barriers to high quality care relationships.

What did you find out?
Physicians identified several barriers to caring for people with ID including lack of accessible education about primary care. They felt overwhelmed, lacked confidence when interacting with patients, and were "driving without a map" (no past experiences to guide them). Further, physicians were not able to identify helpful resources and expressed anxiety about potential challenging behaviors exhibited by some patients with ID. They also voiced a need for more training and more exposure to and experience in working with people with ID. Patients with ID agreed with these same ideas. In addition, people with ID felt that they did not always feel heard or respected in the doctor's office.

What are the take-home messages?
The experiences of both physicians and adults with ID suggest that primary care providers need additional education and training to care for patients with ID.

To learn more about these findings contact
Nechama Greenwood.

Full Journal Article
Wilkinson, J., Dreyfus, D., Cerreto, M., & Bokhour, B. (2012). "Sometimes I feel overwhelmed": educational needs of family physicians caring for people with intellectual disability. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 50(3), 243–250.