Barriers and facilitators to implementing a longitudinal dementia education programme into undergraduate healthcare curricula: a qualitative study

BMC Med Educ. 2021 Apr 9;21(1):201. doi: 10.1186/s12909-021-02632-9.

Abstract

Background: As the numbers of people with dementia worldwide rises, there is a need for improved knowledge and awareness about the condition across the healthcare workforce. There are concerns that traditional models of healthcare education, which focus on short-term episodes of care, limit student understanding of long-term conditions. We therefore designed and delivered the Time for Dementia programme at five Universities in the UK. Through longitudinal contact with families living with dementia, healthcare students gain increased understanding about the experiences of living with dementia. However, implementing new educational models brings challenges. To enable implementation of similar programmes in other educational institutions, this study aimed to identify the common barriers and facilitators of implementing these types of longitudinal programmes at scale.

Methods: To understand the facilitators and barriers of implementing a longitudinal dementia educational programme, a qualitative study was completed. Between October and December 2018, twelve in-depth semi-structured interviews were completed with university teaching staff (n = 6), programme administrators (n = 4), and Alzheimer's Society staff (n = 2) that had key responsibilities for implementing Time for Dementia. Interview questions explored participants experiences, the facilitators, and the challenges encountered when implementing the programme. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results: The analysis identified five key themes: "Leadership characteristics", "Organisational and student buy-in", "Perceived value and motivating factors", "Team coalition and support", and "Time and fit". Implementation of the programme was enhanced by resilient leaders managing the challenges of curricular change. Their belief in the value of the programme, stakeholder buy-in, and supportive team working enabled challenges to be overcome. Workload was reduced and student buy-in increased as time progressed and as more resources became available. A flexible approach to implementation was recommended to ensure the programme fits within the established curriculum.

Conclusion: Curricular change is a challenging task, yet necessary, if we are to improve care for people with long term conditions such as dementia. This study highlights the common barriers and facilitators experienced when implementing a longitudinal educational programme at scale. The findings presented in this study can be used by other educational institutions to manage curricular change efforts.

Keywords: Barriers; Curricular change; Dementia education; Facilitators; Healthcare education; Leadership; Longitudinal.