Operation House Call (OHC) teaches young medical professionals essential skills to enhance their health care of persons with intellectual/developmental disability. Offered by The Arc of Massachusetts, OHC turns to families, parents and individual self-advocates as educators in a health care field that seldom focuses on more than making a diagnosis. It is a rare and important training opportunity.
At the Boston University School of Medicine OHC is a requirement for all third year medical students in their pediatric rotation; it has been a popular and valued course since 1991, initiated by two professors of medicine, including a pediatric neurologist whose brother has intellectual and developmental disability. In 2012 The Arc of Mass was invited to offer the course to two new schools: Tufts Medical School, and the Simmons School of Health Sciences.
At the core of this program is the belief that families are the best teachers. Its learning objectives are relevant to all persons who have intellectual/developmental challenges, and the families and persons who support them.
There are five key components of Operation House Call:
1. An orientation class taught by a Parent Instructor, which includes a half hour of co-teaching with an individual with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
2. A course website with articles, community resources, videos, and a private Chat Room forum for each class of students.
3. A two hour home visit to a volunteer host family with a student partner.
4. Required use of the Chat Room for the student to share his or her home visit learning.
5. Feedback from their host family for each student after the home visit, and support and further resources from the teaching team in the shared class Chat Room.
In Operation House Call no two volunteer families are the same, yet each family shares an important perspective and expertise about support for their loved one. All speak about their experience of health care: what has been helpful, or what has been difficult. Students learn how to learn from families in their future practice.
Young professionals gain knowledge about daily lives, modern support, the challenges, the resources and advocacy essential to best practice in health care partnership. Students practice building rapport and gaining information above and beyond purely “medical” concerns. And because the learning is done outside of a medical setting, each student has a chance to focus on these things without the stress of acute care responsibilities.