Access to community support workers during hospital admission for people with spinal cord injury: a pilot study.


Nunnerley JL(1)(2), Martin RA(3)(4), Aldridge M(3), Bourke JA(3)(5)(6), Simpson I(3).
Author information:
(1)Burwood Academy of Independent Living, Christchurch, New Zealand. [Email]
(2)Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand. [Email]
(3)Burwood Academy of Independent Living, Christchurch, New Zealand.
(4)Rehabilitation Teaching and Research Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.
(5)Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.
(6)Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


STUDY DESIGN: A descriptive qualitative study. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate a pilot project enabling people with spinal cord injury (SCI) to have their support workers accompany them into a non-SCI specialist/public hospital (excluding ICU) to perform selected care. SETTING: The study was conducted in New Zealand. METHODS: Interviews and focus groups with people with SCI, support workers, care agency staff, and hospital staff who participated in the pilot project. RESULTS: Twenty-five individuals participated in the study. Two themes captured participants' experiences of the pilot: 'Maintaining individualised care' and 'Role, tasks and responsibilities. Support workers were described as knowledgeable about SCI care needs and being better positioned to provide individualised care for people with SCI than general nursing staff. Participants with SCI felt less anxious having a support worker with them, and perceived less risk of acquiring secondary health complications during the hospital admission. Good communications is important to ensure there is a shared understanding of the role and responsibilities of having an unregistered support worker in the hospital environment. CONCLUSIONS: Having their regular support worker during admission to public hospital improved the SCI-specific care received. Support workers reduced the demand on hospital nursing staff who did not always have the time or specialist SCI knowledge to provide individualised care. People with SCI may be more likely to access medical assistance earlier and not defer hospital admissions if they can have support workers accompany them into hospital.