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Group fairs help patients take ownership of their treatment


Empowering patients to take the lead in making their own treatment decisions is a key component of patient-centered care. As Oregon State Hospital continues to adopt this more individualized approach, patients are playing a more active role in their treatment planning and recovery.

Shirley Taylor talks with Joanne Trzcinski

Shirley Taylor (left), a patient at Oregon State Hospital, talks with mental health specialist Joanne Trzcinski about the benefits of yoga at the Trails treatment mall group fair. The group fairs give patients the chance to talk with group leaders and learn more about the treatment groups available to them, so they can select groups that meet both their needs and interests.

One example of this change is group fairs, which are held regularly to give patients more opportunities to choose treatment options that address their clinical needs as well as engage their interest. It's similar to a job fair. Group leaders set up booths and displays to "advertise" their groups, and patients visit the booths to learn about the treatments offered, explore their options and make choices that will help them with their individual recovery goals.

"We have found that patients are more satisfied with their groups and more willing to participate in their treatment when we use a more active selection process," said Christina Gallegos, manager of the Trails treatment mall. "They have a better understanding about the groups going into them, and they're happier with their final schedules. It gives them ownership and that really helps."

Patients spend 20 hours every week participating in a variety of treatment groups and activities on the hospital's seven treatment malls. Much like a school term, each treatment mall session lasts 10 weeks, with weeklong breaks between terms. Malls conduct group fairs before each new session so patients have the opportunity to talk with the group leaders and gather information — such as the group curriculum, group goals and special requirements — before sitting down with their treatment team to plan their next session.

"They're very creative and a learning experience," patient Shirley Taylor said of the group fairs. "There are so many different things you can do for yourself here to help get better, and it opens your eyes and mind to how much is actually offered at the hospital."

Taylor said that attending the group fairs has made her more aware of and receptive to groups, such as the mindfulness-based drug and alcohol relapse prevention group she said helped her make gains in her recovery.

The benefits of offering patients more input seems to carry over throughout the treatment mall session as well. Frank Warner, a mental health registered nurse, said his mall has seen an increase in attendance since it started conducting the fairs last summer. In addition, Gallegos added that she now receives fewer requests for schedule changes than in the past.

While the group fairs are designed to benefit the patients, staff have found the events useful as well. Group fairs give them a chance to get feedback about their groups from patients as well as share ideas with other group leaders and treatment team members. Gallegos said this is especially helpful when a group leader is introducing a new group.

"Sometimes it's too hard to tell what a group is just from its title," Gallegos said. "The group fair is a fun way to help everyone understand what each of the groups is about but, most importantly, I think it's really beneficial and meaningful for the patients, and that's what really matters."