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A New, Free Online Course– “Swallowing Difficulties and Medicine”

Byline: Elizabeth Lipton

[Editor’s Note: The NFOSD is publishing this article as its purpose supports two of our most important principles: raising awareness of swallowing disorders and enhancing direct patient support. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are all the rage with Harvard, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and others making their most valuable intellectual property assets available for free to anyone worldwide with a computer, Internet access, and a desire to learn. They include videos, discussion forums, student postings, short quizzes, and much more. This course, taught at a University in the UK, is outstanding and fills a much needed void in our advocacy for improving the lives of all those with a swallowing disorder. NFOSD would like to applaud and thank the creators of this material. ]

I recently registered for and explored a free online course titled “Swallowing Difficulties and Medicines” (click course title to access the class) offered by the University of East Anglia in the UK.  Within minutes, I was easily signed up and able to begin the course.  While the course focuses on prescribing and administering to patients with difficulty swallowing (a topic that is too often neglected), it covers so much more, starting with the basics of one’s swallowing anatomy. This self-paced course is being offered for the second time, beginning January 11th, 2016. You can register by clicking the link above.

The course is geared towards members of a medical care team (e.g., physicians, speech pathologists, nurses, pharmacists, etc.), but is beneficial for anyone involved in the administration of medication to patients with swallowing disorders, such as the patients themselves or their caregivers. Some of the content is advanced for those who don’t have a medical background, but everything is explained clearly enough such that even those with no medical training can still benefit greatly from the material.

Because the course is offered through a University in the UK, the information in some modules is only pertinent to the laws and legislation in the UK.  However, these modules were not irrelevant; they sparked my interest in learning more about the laws that exist in the US.

The course is divided into 8 modules and is designed to be 8 weeks long (1 module per week at a leisurely 2 hours per module); however, it is self-paced so you can work ahead or take as much time as you need.  I signed up for the course 3 weeks after it began, and it was no problem!

Each module has its own focus and learning objective; if a module is uninteresting to you, just skip it! One of the best parts about this course is that it is interactive.  Each mini-lesson within the modules has a comments section where course-takers can type out their questions, feedback, and comments about the material.  Similar to Facebook, you can “like” someone’s comment or respond to it.  The course mentors and educators will also respond to questions and feedback written in the comments section.

At the end of each module, there is a 10-question quiz to measure your understanding of the material.  However, some of these multiple-choice questions are a bit tricky because of the wording.  The confusion caused by the tricky questions is reflected in the comments section by others who are taking the course, and it was even acknowledged by the course instructor in an email this week.

The course requires no additional materials.  There is, however, recommended reading. The book recommended for the course is titled, “Prescribing Medicines for Patients with Dysphagia” written by the course instructor, Dr. Wright. It is available on Amazon for just over $10.  Although this is a wonderful supplement to the class, it is not necessary to learn the content offered online.

I want to conclude with a brief description of each module.  It is worth it to sign up for this course even if only one module sparks your interest.  Again, signing up is easy and free, and you can choose how much of the course you want to complete.  You won’t be disappointed!

Description of the 8 Modules:

Week 1: Normal Swallowing and Swallowing Difficulties (Dysphagia) Introduction

Simply wonderful for patients and caregivers! It provides a great foundation of swallowing anatomy and physiology when it’s working correctly and incorrectly

Week 2: Medicine Management and Tampering with Medicines

Great for anyone who administers medication to patients with swallowing difficulties, including patients themselves. Did you know that crushing some medications might cause them to be less effective?

Week 3: Prescribing Law and Patient Rights

Learn about the laws in the UK about prescribing and administering medications.

Week 4: Oral Formulations and Issues

Learn about the different ways medication can be administered and when to use each one: capsules, tablets, patches, liquids, etc.

Week 5: Medication Adherence and Issues

This lesson will provides insight into why patients may not take medication as prescribed, and what can be done to change this.

Week 6: Impact of Aging and Prescribing

An important topic for those caring for older patients! Dysphagia is most common in those 75 and older, and this population often takes multiple medications.

Week 7: Children and Medications

If you care for and administer medication to a child with dysphagia, this lesson is for you! Learn about the different formulations of medication for this young population.

Week 8: Licensed and Unlicensed Medication

Learn the difference between licensed and unlicensed medications in the UK