Training of Tuberculosis Counseling Teams to Work with Patients and Family Members

YEREVAN, Armenia – On March 28-30, the Avedisian Onanian Center for Health Services Research and Development (CHSR) of the Turpanjian School of Public Health (SPH) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) held a three-day training for psychologists, social workers and Tuberculosis (TB) nurses on the basics of patient-centered treatment, patient counseling and motivational interviewing.

The training was organized within the scope of the “Institutionalization of Patient-Centered Tuberculosis Treatment in Armenia” project, which supports patients and their families along the TB care pathway and helps achieve sustained treatment outcomes. The activity is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by AUA SPH, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia and the National TB Control Center (NTCC).

The training aimed to equip the counseling teams, including a psychologist and a nurse or a social worker and a nurse, with solid knowledge and skills for providing effective education and psycho-social counseling to TB patients and their family members. The participants were also trained in training TB healthcare providers in effective patient counseling.

During the first day of the training, the counseling teams gained information and knowledge on TB, its transmission, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as patient-centered treatment as outlined in the most recent guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). The next two days concentrated on patient counseling with strong emphasis on motivational interviewing techniques.

The main concepts covered during the sessions were developed and delivered using different teaching approaches and methods. The SPH researchers responsible for the training made interactive presentations, organized various exercises with the participants, and showed role-playing videos. Besides the theoretical content, the training had dedicated sessions for the participants to practice their acquired skills through role playing. Training packages containing manuals and other educational materials were distributed to the participants for further use during the project implementation.

Dr. Ara Tekian, Professor of Medical Education and Associate Dean, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Adjunct Professor in the SPH, helped the project team to develop the training materials and videos and coached them to be effective trainers. In his words, “The three-day training program prepared by AUA CHSR experts on ‘Patient-Centered Tuberculosis Treatment in Armenia’ was superb, both in content and in delivery. Participants were totally engaged, acquired a number of skills in motivational interviewing, and role played difficult scenarios. As an expert in health professions education, I could unequivocally conclude that the quality of this program is equivalent to the most successful training packages that I have seen in the West. This is a remarkable achievement for the Turpanjian School of Public Health at AUA.”

The post-event evaluation survey showed that the participants were highly impressed with the training. Many participants mentioned that the knowledge and skills they had gained during the three days were very practical and that they would incorporate them into their routine practice. Reflecting on the strengths of the training, participants highlighted the comprehensive content of the training, as well as the high competency of the trainers.

Motivational interviewing techniques for TB patients, patient-centered approach to TB treatment, and new skills for effective communication with patients are a few of the many skills and topics that were highlighted by the participants when responding to the question about the acquired skills and knowledge.

“It [the training] provided a very open and constructive environment, where we had the opportunity to interact with a multi-disciplinary team and raise our concerns,” mentioned one of the participants in the evaluation survey.

This project is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

The AUA Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian School of Public Health works actively to improve population health and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.