Highlights from ANZSCOS 2009 "Are we there yet?"

Release date: 19-Feb-2010

Organisation: Professor Phil Waite, The Spinal Cord Injury Network

There were two highlights for me, besides the Spinal Cord Injury Network research session which I was involved in.

Firstly, keynote speaker Michael Dunn, from the US Dept of Veterans Affairs, California, gave an entertaining and informative talk on “Maintaining and enhancing team functioning in SCI rehabilitation." Michael has worked for some 36 years as an inpatient Rehabilitation Psychologist responsible for all psychological aspects of rehab. What was particularly good about his talk was his ability to make the topic (which could have been very dull!) into a lively and engaging presentation. He made the material accessible to all of us, from our different backgrounds, by using lots of cartoons to illustrate issues and by providing a clear structure to the topic. He discussed the challenges teams face (eg overwork, power plays, poor communication, self interest) and their strengths (can be powerful and influential, can provide mutual support and useful feedback). He summarised some of the factors that can assist teams to function well, such as regular staff meetings, plenty of social functions like lunches and parties, encourage members to recognise and use each other's strengths and provide generous applause for each other's successes.

My second highlight was a short talk from Candice Ungar who is with the Spinal Outreach Service in NSW. She spoke on “Building a family resilience program”, which is a new concept in rehabilitation arising from the psychology literature. She reported on the focus groups they have held with families and health professionals at two Sydney hospitals to find out what resilience meant and how it can be improved. For family members, previous life experiences, a religious faith, and a goal to achieve a "new kind of normal" were all useful. Similarly for health professionals previous experience with trauma helped, as did providing mentoring. From this data the Outreach Service has developed handouts and videos to help families build their resilience skills and these will be evaluated over the coming year.

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