Wilde uses pilot grant to explore impact of touch in patient care

John Wilde, DO, clinical assistant professor in Palliative Care, has received a UIHC-CCOM Clinical and Educational Program Pilot Grant from the Carver College of Medicine. The program’s intent is for funded clinicians and educators to build data for a publication and future external grant support. With these funds, Wilde will explore clinicians’ perceptions and experiences surrounding the impact of expressive touch (ET) in interactions with patients and families.

Also known as “therapeutic touch,” ET can used in a clinical setting to convey emotional support. Wilde uses the example of holding a patient’s hand after they have received difficult news. He cites studies that show effective use of ET builds rapport, demonstrates empathy, and provides comfort to patients and their families. In 2022, Wilde piloted a curriculum instructing medical students on the use of ET.

Using qualitative surveys of up to 100 clinicians from across UI Health Care, Wilde will ask respondents to describe patient or family interactions that were “enhanced” by the use of ET. They will also be asked to reflect on times when ET may have been less useful or appreciated. Self-selected clinicians can also participate in one-on-one interviews to discuss their perspectives on ET and when and how it can best be used.

Data from these surveys and interviews will be coded and thematic analysis will search for recurring elements in effective and ineffective uses of ET. Wilde hopes to better understand the factors that influence a clinician’s comfort or discomfort with using ET. This, Wilde said, can “inform training health professional learners in the importance and appropriate use of touch.” Past this pilot phase, Wilde hopes to expand the project into patient interviews as well as the development of a “multimodal curriculum” that applies his findings.

Marcy Rosenbaum, PhD, professor of Family Medicine, will serve as Wilde’s faculty mentor on the project. Manish Suneja, MD, clinical professor in Nephrology, will also work with Wilde as an investigator. They have already begun work on curriculum for medical students on the appropriate use of touch. Wilde describes both of them as “experienced in qualitative research methods, particularly in clinician-patient communication.”

Wilde joined the department as faculty in 2021 after completing a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

1 Response

Leave a Reply