Time to look at the ways we offer support?

During this week, I have been to various different meetings, some in hospital settings and others in office settings. I am also involved in working with people, to look at the way they work and communicate, to make their work more time efficient and effective.

I am now going to use some of the more common words associated with modern technology, so apologies in advance! More people are using teleconferencing, and Skype, so that people are not all chasing round the country for unnecessary meetings.In fact this week I watched a speaker at a conference in Manchester, via a tv link. We already use email as the norm now. We send documents at the click of a switch, and  with smart phones, you can be anywhere in the world and give and receive all the information you require.

Most people have a basic mobile these days and send text messages. Even the NHS are using this now, to confirm outpatient appointments. Smart phones and Ipads are a step up from the standard mobile, and are almost one stop communication devices, letting you see people as you talk to them. They contain a camera, radio, your music collection and you can send and receive emails. all this while you are going about your daily routine!

The way people communicate is changing dramatically. Wherever I go, I see people updating their Facebook,Tweeting, or doing emails, on trains buses, or even in pubs or restaurants. It has become acceptable to work in this way. Even in social gatherings, if there is a question that can’t be answered, out come the smart phones, and there is the answer instantly!

I am from the older generation, and up to a year or so ago, I poured scorn on the idea of social networking! I guess because I had never used it, and never really understood the purpose of it. I always said that if I wanted to speak to someone, I would call them! However, I do enjoy new technology, and communicating some of my work by traditional means became very tiring. There are always so many people I meet who want to know my story and I end up repeating it so many times.

It occurred to me that so many people were using social media, that I should give it a go. So I signed up to FaceBook and Twitter, and with the help of my young and ‘up with it’ pals, started to use them. To be fair, anything new takes time to get used to, and they have become part of my life now. However, the most important discovery I made, was that neither of those two mediums were the correct platform, for my cancer work. That is when it was suggested to me that I start a blog. I now use Twitter/FB as my social side, and my blog is my business side. the three methods now work perfectly together.

Although using social media, is not too complicated, I appreciate that currently a reasonable percentage of the people who might benefit from this convenient method of communication, either don’t have access to a computer, or are not trained enough to use it. This can be rather exclusive to a lot of your target audience. But my hope is that between us we can work together so that more people will be able to take advantage of the new stuff that is out there.

My reason for writing the above, is that it is also becoming apparent, that there is a need to change the way we think about things like support groups etc. With certain exceptions, I have seen a slow but gradual decline in attendance of different types of groups. Although people need and want support, at various stages of their treatment path, it seems they all want different things at different times. Coming to a meeting in the day is difficult, then in the evening it interferes with family life. Different cultures deal with issues in different ways. Not everyone is comfortable in a group format.Sometimes it is difficult to get the right type of facilitator for the group, and people quickly lose interest.

We must remember that generally we are running groups for people who are unwell, and therefore they maybe unable to make regular meetings.Personally, I enjoy working face to face with people, and I am definitely not encouraging, the running down of patient groups.In fact some people enjoy coming to groups, to meet like minded people outside their normal environment. But I am encouraging a more open approach to the support we offer.

In my small way, I can see that the content of my blog is read at all different times of the day and night. If people feel inclined, they make a comment, if not, they just drawer comfort in their own way.More importantly, people can remain anonymous if they so wish, but can still be part of the community! But the biggest thing I have noticed is the reach!! People anywhere in the world, can enjoy the work.

My current limitations are that I can only write in English, so therefore can only be read by English speaking people, and of course I cannot reach those people who do not have computer access.But that still leaves a much bigger audience than a standard group. Of course there are already many great blogs and forums out there, but maybe we should be looking at using this form of communication alongside our group work locally?

As usual, the above is only my opinion and views. Please feel free to let me know yours. Are you embracing modern technology, or would prefer more traditional forms of support? Do you find modern technology a help or frustration??

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