Patient Tracer and Experiential Learning

The Patient Tracer experience is a real-life learning activity in which the learner follows a patient/resident during a care transition from one care setting to another.

The Patient Tracer learning activity is an essential element of CTEP training that enables learners to more fully understand patient/family perspectives and experiences with care transitions, as well as increase their knowledge about other types of care settings.

Learner information, instructions and tools for the Patient Tracer learning activity are included in CTEP’s Group Learning Module I along with additional activity guides for experiential learning exercises that may be incorporated as part of the CTEP curriculum or conducted by learners on their own.

CTEP Simulation

In academic or other settings where coordinating Patient Tracer activities is not possible, CTEP educators may consider using simulation to offer participants insights about patient and family experiences during care transitions.

This simulation resource, developed and used by CTEP participants at Springfield Technical Community College during the 2012-2013 CTEP pilot in western Massachusetts, involves caring for a patient with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in a variety of settings including rehabilitation, acute care, and home care. A large part of the simulation involves transitioning the patient from one setting to the next.

To be most effective as part of the CTEP curriculum, simulation participants should be instructed and encouraged to, first and foremost, approach the experience with the patient and family’s experience in mind.

Video Resources

Tips and Recommendations

  • Don’t skip the patient tracer experience. The outcomes are worth all the effort.
  • Send CTEP Educators for a Patient Tracer experience of their own, before teaching CTEP.
  • Consider using patient simulation for students and clinicians to gain patient insights if leaving the building too difficult.
  • Allocate ample time to plan Patient Tracer implementation (who, what, where, how…).
  • Plan ahead for paperwork requirements for Patient Tracer, e.g., HIPAA; confidentiality forms; immunization records; etc.
  • Identify and schedule Patient Tracer activities and sites in advance.
  • Consider scheduling Patient Tracers on the same days as group learning sessions (e.g., four-hour learning session in the morning, Patient Tracer visits in the afternoons).
  • Incorporate all elements of the Experiential Learning Model.
  • Plan for how each step of the Experiential Learning Model will be incorporated, especially time for reflection and public sharing of what was observed and learned.
  • Prepare learners with information/tools for engaging in the other (curriculum) experiential learning activities (in the curriculum) that learners can do during Patient Tracer visits if no care transitions are occurring.