Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Patient Partners In Arthritis

There's an ongoing discussion among patients about the education of doctors.  Considering how many people see doctors for musculoskeletal (MSK) problems, and how frequently these visits occur, I think it gets relatively little time in medical school.  Certainly when it comes to awareness of Inflammatory Arthritis there's a long way to go to raise the knowledge level of everyone out there.

To help improve awareness of various types of arthritis among medical professionals there has been a  nonprofit program called Patient Partners in Arthritis used in Canada for the last 17 years.

The patients who volunteer must have a confirmed diagnosis of arthritis and feel comfortable talking about their disease and interacting with all levels of health care providers. They complete an in-depth training program that prepares them to demonstrate joint examinations and provide a real life medical history that illustrates the problems and issues that arise with both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis.  That covers a lot of ground.

                         Patient Partner member ready to participate

Everyone knows the value of a good story. You see stories everywhere from commercials to mystery novels. They add interest to dry facts (and bones). 
                                            Bones of the hand (Toronto Western Hospital)

I joined Patient Partners and I think that right now I am the newest member.  I have learned a huge amount from the training and from the rheumatologists who are present and contribute to some of the Patient Partner sessions.

Currently the program is used in 10 Canadian universities as part of the MSK education of medical students, residents & other health care providers like nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

"The program is based on the principle that arthritis is a chronic condition and people living with it are often the most knowledgeable about many aspects of the disease." (from The Arthritis Society website)

It has helped me to gain confidence about my knowledge of anatomy and most days I participate I learn new facts.

The Patient Partners training is led by the same person to provide consistency and reviews are done regularly to maintain standardization. 

In a typical session Students learn joint examination techniques and are able to see and feel the joints of patients with a variety of MSK problems. The students realize the impact of arthritis better with a personal story along with the feel and look of damaged joints and restricted movement.  Feedback from students indicate that it is a better learning tool than pictures or a didactic lecture.

The last time I saw my orthopedic surgeon, the Fellow who was working with him had encountered the program in the Maritimes several years previously when he was a student . He remembered the session well.
One way used to demonstrate the feel of an inflamed joint is through the use of chocolate covered almonds and grapes.  No surprise to my fellow patients to hear that it's the squishy grape that feels like an inflamed joint.
Grapes from                

This is a successful 'hands on' Canadian program which I wanted to spotlight.


  1. Annette this sounds like such a useful programme. There isn't enough knowledge of this disease by a long shot and I'm certain that as patients living with it, we can teach our medical professionals a fair bit.

  2. The medical professionals don't get a great deal of info about RA and musculoskeletal problems in their studies (physiotherapists excepted). It's a freat program. Thanks for commenting.