The study circle as a tool in multiple sclerosis patient education in Sweden
Anne-Marie Landtblom1,2, Cecilia Lang1, Gullvi Flensner3,4
1Motala General Hospital, Motala, Sweden; 2Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Neurology; 3Department of Medicine and Care, Division of Nursing Science, University of Linköping, Sweden; 4Department of Nursing, Health and Culture, University West, Trollhättan, Sweden
Objective: Patient education plays an important role in the management of chronic diseases that can cause disability and predictable psychosocial problems. Quality of life assessment in multiple sclerosis (MS) has confirmed that psychosocial complications related to working life, marriage/partnership, and the family often occur. Furthermore, symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and sexual dysfunction have a great impact. We wanted to develop and implement study circles to promote the patients’ abilities to meet such common problems and to provide a network where they can be autonomous and develop appropriate strategies in self-care and existential problems.
Methods: Together with the MS patient organization and a study association, we have arranged study circles for patients with MS, thus providing structured information according to a pedagogic model. The patients are encouraged to work together in groups to learn about the disease and its key symptoms, to develop strategies to master these symptoms in everyday life, and to make necessary changes, ie, self-care management. The programme also contains handicap policies.
Results: Fifteen study circles with a total of 105 patients started during the first year. Fifteen circle leaders were approved. A focus interview showed that the patients are highly satisfied but also revealed some problems in interactions with health care professionals. The study circles were included in a wider project from a newly started multidisciplinary centre for health education for a variety of chronic diseases causing disability, which aims at becoming a regional interface between the health care system, patient organizations, and educational services.
Conclusion: The study circles have an important role to play in the management of MS. Good organization is required to make such a project work since health care services do not normally work so closely with patient organizations and educational services.
Practice implications: Study circles that are permanently established and function well are of great help for the patients and the work at the MS clinic is substantially facilitated. Health care professionals also gain from the arrangement by learning more about the self-perceived impact of the disease.
Keywords: multiple sclerosis, patient education, pedagogy, health care, self-care, qualitative research
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