Newsletter Motivates Patients
By Deborah S. Evans, MA, LCSW
When we launched the ORKC Oracle—a quarterly newsletter for patients of Total Renal Care’s Ocala Regional Kidney Center in Florida—we didn’t know what impact it would have (described below in “Outcomes/Benefits”). Our intention was to publish articles that entertain, educate, and enlighten readers, and to help people associated with this dialysis center connect with one another. The primary theme is encouragement, but we’ve also discussed issues such as employment, staying active, and predialysis education. The newsletter is distributed to all 300 of our hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients from three units and to center staff.
Our first issue served as an orientation piece for new patients, with tips on how to be a proactive part of the treatment team and get important questions answered. This type of active involvement promotes self-management, which can enhance quality of life.
Another issue, called “The Young and the Restless,” focused on our younger patients (age 50 and under) and the unique challenges they face. For example, it has an article about a young, blind, diabetic patient who received a transplant and is returning to school to become a vocational rehabilitation counselor. We introduced the idea of our “Patient Mentor Program” in this article, as this young man has volunteered to give advice to someone who is just starting dialysis.
Production and Support
We’re able to create such a valuable newsletter through the joint efforts of our staff and patients. The center’s social workers are the main writers, with contributing articles from patients, nurses, dietitians, patient care techs, and other staff. The husband of one of our social workers donates his time and uses his own software to format the newsletter, giving it a professional look. Money for printing comes from our own charitable foundation, The Ocala Kidney Foundation. Although we’re lucky to have these resources, I believe that with creative fundraising and/or donations from the community, other facilities could also produce such a newsletter.
This is an excellent way to educate patients and staff about a variety of dialysis-related issues, and it provides a forum for patients to have a voice (in a way that some of these folks have never had before). However, the greatest benefit is that the newsletter connects our patients to each other and to staff. We’ve had feedback from patients and staff about the impact of certain articles.
- The Patient Mentor Program (mentioned above) had a slow start until it was featured in the newsletter, which spurred some patients to participate.
- Staff who interviewed patients for stories said some patients were willing to share more about their feelings/opinions than they ever had before. The interview experience facilitated patient-staff communication.
- Some younger patients said they were inspired by reading about other dialysis patients their age and it decreased their feeling of isolation.
- One dialysis patient who “dabbled in writing” was clearly pleased that staff valued her skills enough to ask her to contribute. Her family expressed gratitude to staff for publishing these heartfelt writings.
Name: Deborah S. Evans, MA, LCSW
Title: Social Work Supervisor
Organization: Ocala Regional Kidney Center (Total Renal Care)
Date: July 1999