Families as Teachers

Families as Teachers

The Families as Teachers Program pairs graduate level nursing students with a family that includes a child with special health care needs.

“It was eye opening for me in a number of ways. I learned to make sure to ask about things such as transportation, stresses, family strengths and needs.” 

The purpose of the program is to provide a family-guided learning opportunity for future advanced practice nurses who will be providing care to families and children with special health care needs. 

This is an opportunity for a future provider to learn about how your family incorporates your child's needs into day-to-day family life. In this experience the role of the student is to be the learner with you being the teacher. 

Students in the Families as Teachers experience are in a doctoral program to prepare advanced practice nurses (Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists) to be leaders in the care of children with special health care needs.

Families who have worked with our students in the past have told us the experience was positive and offered a chance to impact the perceptions and attitudes of future health care providers.

What do students want to learn from families?

Some possible topics of discussion during the experience:

  • What advice do you have for health care providers who work with families of children with special health care needs?
  • What advice do you have for other families of children with special health care needs?
  • What has been most helpful for you in terms of support from others?
  • What do you wish you had known when you started your journey as a family?
  • What do you want providers to spend more (or less) time doing when they interact with your child? 
  • What are your family’s strengths?
  • What is your perception of your role in the coordination of care for your child?

How the program works

The program begins in mid-January and ends at the beginning of May. Students are paired with one family and are expected to arrange with the family a schedule of up to five visits over the program. Typically these visits occur in the family home; students have also arranged to accompany the family and child to a medical appointment, therapy visit, and school activity. The visits are about one hour in length.

During the visit, the student’s role is to listen and learn from the family about the day-to-day experiences of caring for a child with special health care needs. No medical care or treatment is provided at these visits – the purpose is for the student to observe and learn from the family.

About the program

Families as Teachers is a program where families teach future pediatric nurse practitioners about the family experience of caring for a child with special health care needs through home- and community-based visits.


We are currently seeking families to participate in the program in 2018.

Faculty contact

Wendy Looman

Wendy Looman, PhD, APRN, CNP
Associate Professor
School of Nursing, University of Minnesota
612.624.6604
looma003@umn.edu

Center for Children with Special Health Care Needs 

Student reflections

"I learned the importance of hearing the family’s story, listening, seeing beyond the conditions—seeing the whole child within the context of family, home, and community.”

“It was eye opening for me in a number of ways. I learned to make sure to ask about things such as transportation, stresses, family strengths and needs.”

“I realized how long and how much work it takes for families of children with special needs to make it to appointments. We need to give them extra time for visits; their needs are complex.”

“It was during these discussions that I realized that each family uses different methods to cope… I learned the importance of meeting families where they are at this point in time.”