Module 1: Introduction

1.1 Course welcome

Welcome to this course about Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness. The course materials are open to you until 16th June 2022 – we strongly recommend you start the course as soon as possible and then plan your learning time to ensure you can make the most of this course and the shared experience of learning alongside other students in this online cohort.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • list the core medical, nursing and therapeutic needs of PDoC patients
  • identify the different professionals involved and describe some specialist interventions they can offer
  • explain the nature of a ‘best interests’ decision
  • list standardised tests used to assess levels of consciousness and recognise diverse ways in which these may be viewed by families
  • outline the value of Multi-Disciplinary Team working, especially for PDoC patients, and reflect on the definition of ‘the Team’
  • define your own role in the MDT and consider strategies for enhancing collaborative working among all those involved in supporting PDoC patients
  • identify the key guidelines and evidence base for your practice.

This course will take between 5 – 7 hours


Navigating the course

The course consists of a number of modules; these are listed in the course navigation bar (often displayed in the top right of your computer screen, or at the bottom of the unit if you are viewing this on a phone). Each module contains several short units of learning, bite-size chunks to allow for flexible study. Most units can be completed in under 20 minutes.

Action: Click on the module titles now to reveal the learning units and get an impression of the overall course contents.

You won’t be able to actually go to a unit until you’ve pressed the ‘Mark as Completed’ button on the preceding units. This is because the units are designed to be done in order, but if you want to jump around a bit you can always ‘cheat’ by marking units as completed before you’ve actually completed them!

Continuing Professional Development

Throughout the course you’ll be invited to complete quizzes, make notes on particular questions and carry out some reflective exercises for your learning portfolio. Set yourself up now with a notebook or a folder on your computer to store reflections as you work through the materials.

The course also involves listening to short lectures and films clips, so you’ll need to keep headphones to hand if you’re planning on doing some units on public transport or in other shared space.

Assessment and certification

The course is designed so it can be completed with self-assessment via quizzes and self-reflection. A certificate of completion is generated automatically and can be downloaded for your CPD portfolio once you’ve ticked off all the units.

Your first task

Your first task before you read any further is:

a) Bookmark on your computer. We also recommend you bookmark in on your phone so you access the course that way too. (It’s easy to do a unit during a bus ride)

b) Do you know your password for your student account with us? If so save it on your computer/phone now, write it down or email yourself.

c) If you don’t know your password use the email address you registered with to try logging in and then go through the lost password process

Good, now that you have secured access, read on to learn a bit about the background to this course.

Course development

The course has been developed by a team from the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre at Cardiff University and includes input from leading experts in the field, frontline staff and families with relatives in vegetative or minimally conscious states. You’ll be able to hear from all these people in the short film clips throughout the course. The team will guide you through the learning materials, popping up now and again, in avatar form, to ask questions or provide comments (or sometimes engaging in dialogue with each other, reflecting different perspectives).

Meet the team

In the next module you will be invited to introduce yourself. But before that, meet the team.

Jenny Kitzinger

Now, click on the sound bar to listen to Jenny Kitzinger introduce the team (or you can just read the mini-biographies below)

I’m Professor Jenny Kitzinger. I’m a social anthropologist and Professor of Communications Research at Cardiff University. I served on the Royal College of Physicians working party which produced guidelines on the management of patients in Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness. Together with Professor Celia Kitzinger, I co-direct the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre. We’ve spent over ten years studying what happens to PDoC patients and interviewed over 100 family members and dozens of health care professionals too. This research and guideline development work underpins the learning you are about to do.


Professor Jenny Kitzinger

I’m Professor Celia Kitzinger an academic psychologist and Honorary Professor in the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff. As well as co-directing the CDoC Research Centre with Jenny, I also co-run a project looking at best interests decision-making for a wide range of people who lack capacity to make decisions e.g  about where they live and what medical treatments they have. I served on the BMA working party on the use of feeding tubes for patients who lack capacity to consent. As well as doing research in this area Jenny and I have family experience: our sister, Polly, was in a car crash in 2009. She emerged from a minimally conscious state after about two years, but remains in need of 24/7 care, unable to make her own choices about key areas of her life.


Professor Celia Kitzinger

Hi, I’m Dr Julie Latchem-Hastings, I’m a social science researcher and a neurological physiotherapist by background. I’ve worked in the NHS and Independent Sector supporting people with neurological conditions, including those with PDoC. My PhD focused on how we think about the future of people with brain injury and involved detailed observations  in neurological rehabilitation units. I worked in Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research in the area of neurological rehabilitation. I then moved to the School of Health Sciences.


Dr Julie Latchem-Hastings

Hello, I’m Dr Geraldine Latchem-Hastings, a physiotherapists by backgroundI am a Senior Lecturer in physiotherapy education, with over 17 years experience as an academic and a lot of experience of  curricula development, assessment, quality assurance and programme validation and the delivery of research-led CPD programmes and courses. I work in the School of Health Care Sciences at Cardiff University and I’m passionate about interprofessional education and digital learning. I have a doctorate in philosophy and law and my main research area is in the application of ethics within healthcare practice.


Dr Geraldine Latchem-Hastings

For this initiative we partnered up with Liz Fahy, from GeckoSurfing, who works with academics & self-employed professionals to harness the power of online learning. Liz runs her own  website design business and is the educational technologist for CDoCTraining. She is an experienced teacher and ran a not for profit training organisation widening opportunities for women going back into education and employment.

Between the five of us, collectively, we have over 60 years experience of teaching and designing and delivering training. We hope that experience shows in the course you are about to do!

Now mark this unit as ‘complete’ by clicking the green button (bottom right). This will then allow you to move to the ‘Next Unit’ by clicking the purple button that appears at the bottom.

In the next unit you will have the opportunity to introduce yourself and ‘meet’ others doing the course.