Introduction

Module Summary

Supportive networks are social networks that help patients or rehabilitants cope with their illness or condition by giving them a sense of respect and belonging. Learning how to create and sustain supportive networks in healthcare settings is therefore central to delivering healthcare which reflects the principles of humanism.

Key areas covered

  • The definition of supportive networks and social support.
  • The different types of social support: emotional support, esteem support, network support.
  • The significance of supportive networks.
  • Techniques that can be used during supportive sessions (e.g. Tree of life).
  • Ways to incorporate supportive sessions into the everyday work of a healthcare institution.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understanding social networks’ role in caring for patients’ health.
  2. Identifying support network session techniques, practices and exercises.
  3. Appreciating the relevance of support networks for today’s healthcare systems.

Importance of module to healthcare delivery

Improving patients’ wellbeing by showing that they are respected and that they belong to a larger community that really cares can increase survival rates, improve rehabilitation times and is cost-effective.  Social support is offered by being part of a social network who we can rely on to help us.  Those enjoying strong social ties appear to be at low risk of psychosocial and physical impairment, whereas a lack of social support has been found to be associated with depression, neurosis and even mortality. Therefore, learning how to create supportive networks within healthcare settings has the power to improve patient outcomes and can facilitate all aspects of the healthcare system to deliver quality care.

Importance of the module to individual healthcare professionals

Health professionals themselves are often in need of supportive network sessions. The impact of stress and work pressures will often lead to physical, emotional and psychological challenges, many of which can lead to burn-out and situations where decisions may compromise the outcomes of patients and professionals. In such cases supportive networks are critical to maintaining a healthy personal and professional life. This will have the effect of reducing potential issues that may lead to alleged mistreatment or medico-legal complaints.