TTalk: they keep coming back!

How do you know the party was successful? When you can’t get rid of your guests.

At times during our various sessions and projects around the Turk Talk cases, we have the beautiful problem that the students keep coming back. It seems we can’t get rid of them: a true testament to how engaged they are with this approach.

We have seen this at 3 levels:

  1. The students far prefer this approach to learning the subtleties of therapeutic communication. This is not just a Kirkpatrick level 1 observation of enthusiasm. The students now perform much better in their formal assessments, compared to the old way of using limited Standardized Patient resources. The most striking example of this was seen in late 2019 when, due to a curriculum glitch, the students could not use TTalk for one module. The subsequent exam was a disaster and the students demanded that TTalk be reinstated.
  2. The students recognize this approach as being so beneficial to their learning that we have had a constant stream of graduate nurses who are keen to volunteer their services as Turkers/facilitators because it keeps up their skills when they are in practice. It is the most practical way to practice crucial conversations that can otherwise be fraught or threatening. Even as we have scaled up the class sizes from the initial 20s to now hundreds, we have still had no problem finding Turkers. (DT: I have never seen this phenomenon before. Usually students are keen that exams are behind them!)
  3. Our established Turkers, the old guard who have been with us from the beginning won’t quit either (not that we want them to). The facilitation process is challenging but it is fun and it is real. There is not a lot of prep time required. There is constant variety in how the students address the challenging situations that are thrown at them so it does not get ‘old’ to be a Turker.

One of our biggest concerns when we first explored TTalk as a method was that we would not be able to find enough Turkers. This approach is logistically more efficient than OSCEs (where you need a 1:1 ratio between students and facilitators (or sometimes greater than that if the actor and the examiner are different),) because we can typically host 4 concurrent students per Turker. But we thought we would see burn out and attrition in our cohort of Turkers.

Well, not so far, and we have now been doing this for 4 years. Some of them are going to be expecting long service medals!