Starting a support group for your patients can be very rewarding. They can be beneficial for the community and for the sleep center as a way to market the program. There are many different types of support groups — OSA, RLS, insomnia and narcolepsy being a few.
Is a Support Group Necessary?
This is a great first question before planning to start a group meeting. When the UCSF Sleep Disorders Center and I started our support group for patients with sleep apnea, we sent out a survey to find out the level of interest, meeting topics, time of the meeting (day or evening) and frequency (monthly, quarterly, etc.). In the age of online communications, you can also consider creating or joining an existing online community, such as one within social media (e.g., Facebook).
Who Leads the Meetings?
Now that you have your framework down for which group you wish to form, you need to decide if it will be sustainable if you or someone from the sleep center is to lead it. You may be lucky and find a volunteer meeting attendee who can take it over, or at least be an active participant and assist with running the meeting or planning the speakers. Making the time for you or one of your staff to coordinate the meeting is best, and if the sleep center has a room available for the meetings to take place, even better. Our group is attended by one of our lead technologists, who introduces the speakers and is available after the meeting for questions. I coordinate the website and schedule, and book the speakers. We also invite different DME companies from the community to support the meetings with refreshments and a knowledgeable respiratory therapist (RT) for mask or PAP machine questions.
In the rest of this article from the Q2 2019 issue of A2Zzz, Kimberly Trotter, MA, RPSGT, discusses virtual/online support, the general rules of support groups and a few different types of support groups.
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