Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Caring for people with severe brain injuries: improving health care professional communication and practice through online learning

Latchem-Hastings, Julie ORCID:, Latchem-Hastings, Geraldine and Kitzinger, Jenny ORCID: 2023. Caring for people with severe brain injuries: improving health care professional communication and practice through online learning. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 43 (4) , pp. 267-273. 10.1097/CEH.0000000000000486

[thumbnail of Caring_for_People_with_Severe_Brain_Injuries_.50.pdf]
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (138kB) | Preview
License URL:
License Start date: 30 January 2023


Introduction: Severe brain injuries can leave people in prolonged disorder of consciousness resulting in multifaceted medical, nursing, and rehabilitative needs that can be challenging for even the most experienced multidisciplinary team. The complexities of care, communication with families, and best interest decision-making about medical interventions means there is a need for ongoing training in clinical, social, ethical, and legal aspects. Methods: Using a combination of group discussions, interviews, and questionnaires with learners, this article reports an evaluation of designing and delivering an interprofessional, online work-based course to health care professionals caring for prolonged disorder of consciousness patients. Results: There were challenges for staff uptake because of COVID-19, but engaging with it increased knowledge in defining and diagnosing patients' conditions, understanding multidisciplinary team roles, communicating with families, and navigating legal and ethical issues. Course participation also enhanced critical and reflective thinking skills, provided a sense of connection to other professionals, and generated plans to improve service provision. Discussion: Online learning that enables health care professionals to engage at their own pace and also come together as an interprofessional community can provide invaluable continuing professional development and help to enhance joined up, holistic patient care. However, achieving this requires significant investment in creating research-led, multimedia, learning materials, and courses that include synchronous and asynchronous delivery to combine flexible study with the opportunity for peer networks to form. It also depends on a commitment from organizations to support staff online continuing professional development. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most forms of continuing professional development (CPD) for health care professionals (HCPs) had to move rapidly online. Since then, National Health Service (NHS) and health education strategies1 have prompted further strategic thinking about how to move beyond emergency online delivery to a more sustainable and positive engagement with the potential of online CPD. This article evaluates a multimedia online course designed to develop HCPs' skills in caring for patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness (PDoC). Prolonged disorders of consciousness is an umbrella term for three conditions—coma, vegetative, and minimally conscious states. These conditions, caused by severe brain injury, are associated with profound motor, cognitive, sensory, and functional deficits that require full and continuous care.2 The complexity of such patients' needs is complicated further by social, ethical, and legal contexts. Our own research has highlighted urgent training requirements for HCPs including clarification around diagnosis, improving communication with families, and enhancing decision-making about life-sustaining interventions.3–7 In a bid to address these learning needs, we (members of the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre) had already delivered in-person talks and training days to over 5000 practicing HCPs since our formation as a research center in 2010 (see list at: In 2018, we started to develop an online learning course designed to be delivered over a ten-week period for interprofessional CPD in workplace settings, combining online interactive self-study modules with “real-time” virtual seminars and tweet chats. The course consists of three learning sets, each involving two or three modules (Table 1); each set involves between four and 8 hours of independent study, depending on the learner's knowledge base and the depth to which they wish to explore each area.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Healthcare Sciences
Journalism, Media and Culture
Publisher: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
ISSN: 0894-1912
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 9 November 2022
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2023 15:23

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics