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Intellect Dev Disabil. 2012 Jun;50(3):243-50. doi: 10.1352/1934-9556-50.3.243.

"Sometimes I feel overwhelmed": educational needs of family physicians caring for people with intellectual disability.

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Boston University, Family Medicine, 1 BMC Place, Dowling 5, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Primary care physicians who care for adults with intellectual disability often lack experience with the population, and patients with intellectual disability express dissatisfaction with their care. Establishing a secure primary care relationship is particularly important for adults with intellectual disability, who experience health disparities and may rely on their physician to direct/coordinate their care. The authors conducted semistructured interviews with 22 family physicians with the goal of identifying educational needs of family physicians who care for people with intellectual disability. Interviews were transcribed and coded using tools from grounded theory. Several themes related to educational needs were identified. Physician participants identified themes of "operating without a map," discomfort with patients with intellectual disability, and a need for more exposure to/experience with people with intellectual disability as important content areas. The authors also identified physician frustration and lack of confidence, compounded by anxiety related to difficult behaviors and a lack of context or frame of reference for patients with intellectual disability. Primary care physicians request some modification of their educational experience to better equip them to care for patients with intellectual disability. Their request for experiential, not theoretical, learning fits well under the umbrella of cultural competence (a required competency in U.S. medical education).

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