Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Canterbury is a community service established in 1962 to provide professional support, information and education for people with, and those providing care for people with, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s. 

Identifying a training need

Among other duties, the service’s nurses provide specialised information and education sessions on Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s to various groups such as members and their spouses or carers, other health professionals such as rest home staff and the general community. 

Two nurses, Bronnie and Judy, had been searching for a suitable course for some time to improve their presentation skills.

They were both “open to getting as much from the course as possible”.  

We wanted to improve the way we presented sessions because we haven’t had any training in this regard, although between us we have presented many education sessions,” Judy said. 

Examples of these sessions include a one-hour presentation to nursing students at CPIT; running a six-week self-management programme called ‘Living well with Parkinson’s’; facilitating a support group for people with Multiple Sclerosis; or presenting at a Spouses’ Information Day (for spouses of people with Parkinson’s).

Bronnie and Judy discovered a course called ‘Developing practices for new tertiary teachers’ offered by AKO Aotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. While it was designed for new tertiary teachers, the course is also relevant for staff working on professional development.

The service applied to Te Pou for a Workforce Development grant to enable them to attend. 

Deriving value, achieving results

According to the service’s manager Robin Furley, the training was “low cost but high impact” and very worthwhile. 

Delivered in an interactive half-day workshop, its content focused on helping practitioner’s link teaching and learning theories to presentations, so that their teaching delivery is interesting and engaging. 

It introduced key theories and current understandings about adult learning. Workshop facilitators Judith Honeyfield and Cath Fraser from Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, based the session on their resource – Signposts – which is a guide that offers a variety of learning and teaching strategies, practices and processes to help new teachers pass on their expert knowledge to learners.

Putting theory into practice 

Bronnie and Judy were inspired by the course.

We also learned how to use PowerPoint in a way that keeps people engaged and interested in the topic being presented.” 

It also gave Judy the confidence to present a case study at the 2015 Multiple Sclerosis Nurses of Australasia conference. Judy used a video case study, including narrative from client interviews, to make the presentation more meaningful by having the person involved speaking of their own journey with MS. Although Judy taught herself how to edit the video, she thought of the idea during the course.

Bronnie gained a different and fresh perspective on presenting which enabled her to review the frequently delivered course ‘Living Well with Parkinson’s’. She is applying the techniques she learned to make the course more interactive, not too “full on” and to ensure the more difficult topics, such as depression and anxiety, are more relevant and useful.

Both nurses learned many different ways to involve course participants. 

An important fact they learned is that only 15 per cent of presentation time should be facilitator-led. They now plan their presentations around this learning, ensuring presentations include more audience participation than previously and use more variety, such as using YouTube clips and a speed-dating tool. 

Taking their training to the next level 

A recent highlight, which is a direct result of their improved presentation skills, was winning an award for the best poster at the Multiple Sclerosis Nurses of Australasia conference held at Te Papa in August 2016. The poster MS and sexuality was developed in conjunction with the local Neuro Nurses Group, and presented by Judy at the conference. 

With their newly acquired enthusiasm for making information more easily accessed and understood, Bronnie and Judy are hoping to hone their presentation skills even more by doing a follow-up course in 2016.