Introduction to Guided Participation

By Karen F. Pridham ’57, MS ’66, PhD, FAAN

Helping people learn skills needed for healthy living is a major nursing function. What my work as a public health nurse and researcher with families who had a child with a complex chronic health problem showed me was parents’ need for skills for day-to-day caregiving over the long term of the child’s life. These skills are shaped by the family’s culture, preferences, and environment, and the demands and responsibilities of everyday life. Parents generally are on their own to learn the skills and practices needed for optimal caregiving.

Early in my public health nursing experience, I had an experience in which the suggestions I had for parents about their chronically-ill school age child’s health-related activities were flatly turned down. I was left without an opportunity to work with the parents because I did not know how to establish a relationship with them that started with a commitment to learn about the issues they were working on, what their child’s chronic illness meant for them and their child, and how I could be helpful.

That experience motivated me to go to graduate school to learn about teaching and learning for participatory clinical practice. The online “Guided Participation for Clinical Practice with Parents and Children” course is a way for me to share what my students, colleagues, and I have developed over many years of doing research with parents to make teaching/learning of caregiving competencies clear, manageable, and effective.

The content of this course is unique in the opportunity it provides to learn the concepts and methods laid out in the theoretical framework of guided participation for clinical practice. The course is structured to give participants a systematically laid out approach for working with families and developing their competencies for caregiving. Whether the teaching/learning episode is 10 minutes or 1 hour in length, support for establishing a relationship—which is foundational to guided participation practice—is supplied through concepts of joining attention and establishing shared understanding. The course makes it clear that guided participation begins with what the family caregiver is working on and provides a structure for a family caregiver to participate in the development of that work and its meaning through the teaching/learning activity.

Any clinician who works with family caregivers to assist and support them in managing care for optimal outcomes of competence and health could profit by taking this course. Nurses, social workers, dieticians, behavioral counselors, physicians, clergy and spiritual advisors, physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, pharmacists, and early childhood educators are among candidates for the course.

If someone is not sure about taking the course, my advice is for them to call or e-mail me about their interests, clinical issues confronting them, and potential application of the course.

distinguished alumna Karen PridhamDr. Karen Pridham is the Helen Denne Schulte Professor Emerita, a member of the School of Nursing Board of Visitors, and the instructor of the Nursing Professional Development course titled “Guided Participation for Clinical Practice with Parents and Children.