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The Impact of Patient Education in Spinal Health

Spinal injury is a life-changing and traumatic experience for patients and their families. Patients are forced to re-learn the most basic functions and everyday tasks.

We spoke with Carrie and Liz who are project leads in an educational program for spinal patients at POWH to learn more about the importance of patient education for post-discharge care. The program was recently funded by our annual grant rounds and the long-term impact of the delivery of this program will help support patients learn how to live a fulfilling life despite their spinal injuries. Carrie also shares a few common misconceptions about spinal injury patients.


POWHF: Please introduce yourselves and your role at POWH

Carrie & Liz: My name is Carrie Easthope, and I am an Allied Health Project Officer based within the Spinal Unit. I’m Liz Brown, the Director of Operations for Shared Clinical Services at Prince of Wales Hospital.


POWHF: You recently been awarded a grant from POWHF, can you please explain what you are funding?

Carrie & Liz: The original application was seeking funds for a position to improve and refresh the patient education that we were providing to spinal patients. We had completed a review and one of the patients gave invaluable feedback that they couldn’t make the education sessions in person and unfortunately missed the session entirely. They were wondering if the sessions could be executed online and be available at any time of the day. It was a great opportunity for us to review the existing content of the program, refresh it and review how we delivered the content to patients.  


POWHF: Can you please share what the long-term benefits are for patient care from this program?

Carrie & Liz: Patients will be able to improve self-management skills, both within the hospital and then post-discharge [for patients].  By providing evidence-based education that’s more accessible and to meet diverse adult learning needs, this will ultimately improve those skills in all aspects of their life.



POWHF: It’s Spinal Health Week in May, are you able to share some common misconceptions patients have about spinal health?

Carrie & Liz: From an occupational therapist perspective, I would say the biggest misconception generally among patients in spinal, is that “life is no longer good” or that “they might not be able to participate in all aspects of life”. Through a comprehensive and supportive patient journey with the multidisciplinary team available here (both in-patient and out-patient), we can show patients that there is so much life to live.

For patients that suffer a spinal injury, life has undoubtably changed, but there’s still, so much to be gained. You can still participate in the community and find meaning in life.


POWHF: The practitioners sounds like they do a lot more than helping spinal patients recover from their injuries and adapting to a new life. It feels like the team is also providing mental therapeutic care to spinal patients, is that right?

Carrie & Liz: There is a team of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers and clinical psychologists who are part of a multidisciplinary team that not only deliver patient care to improve functionality but also support patients so they can live their best functional lives. We ensure to have the peer support team embedded within the patient experience so they can provide that lived experience, ongoing support and mentoring for the patients. They are on the wards almost every second day with patients.


In the last 20 years, we have funded research projects, patient initiatives, and innovative medical equipment for the Spinal Unit. Notable projects that we have funded include the Spinal Garden in the Spinal Injuries Rehab Unit for patients in recovery and a study to understand the respiratory complications for patients with tetraplegia.


Without the generosity of our donors, it wouldn’t be possible for us to continually support the Spinal Unit deliver programs like the educational program for patients. Help us continue our support by donating today so we can provide another 20 years of best patient care and innovation.