Support Group Participation: Effect on Perceptions of Newly Diagnosed MS Patients

Thursday, May 31, 2018
Exhibit Hall A (Nashville Music City Center)
Vanessa Zimmerman, MSN, RN, MSCN , Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Erin Hendricks, BSN, RN , Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Meghan Garabedian, CRNP, MSCN , Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Caitlin Pileggi, MSN, MSCN , Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Background: Patients newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) face an overwhelming number of questions about MS, including treatment options, its effects on their life, family, employment, and finances. Participation in a support group is one way to obtain information about MS and receive support of others with the same diagnosis. However, existing support groups are often attended by patients with significant disability, resulting in newly diagnosed patients being hesitant to return. Lack of information and support can affect perceptions of MS. Research suggests that positive disease perception can benefit patients with chronic illness. Little information in the literature addresses the effect of support groups on patients with MS, including those who are newly diagnosed.

Objectives: The purpose of this qualitative pilot study will be to explore perceptions of patients newly diagnosed with MS before and after their participation in two monthly support group sessions.

Methods: A support group will be conducted each month utilizing nursing, pharmacy, and social work professionals. Patients will be invited to participate. They will be asked to complete a survey with open-ended questions to share their thoughts about their diagnosis and how it may affect their lives. After participating in two sessions, they will be asked to complete the survey again.

Results: The data will be analyzed using thematic analysis.

Conclusions: It is anticipated that this pilot study will reveal that participation in a support group improves perceptions for newly diagnosed patients about MS and will pave the way for a larger study to explore the benefit of this intervention.