group of people, hands on top of one another in a circle

Since 2001, Mount Sinai Hospital has held a psychosocial support group for patients and their families who have been diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Co-facilitated by Brenda O’Connor, a nurse and Jenna Rines, a social worker, the focus of the group is to provide an environment that promotes peer support and resource sharing to cope with the ups and downs of IBD.

In November of 2018, Jenna’s poster highlighting the role of the group won the Practitioner Award at the Ontario Association of Social Worker’s provincial conference.

“Peer support groups are rare in an acute care setting,” notes Jenna. “But I believe that peer support groups are an important avenue as the role of social work evolves. It’s a way for us to address the needs of the whole person, not just their diagnosis.”

The group is consistently rated well by participants – who echo Jenna’s sentiments. One participant shared this feedback, “For me, especially when I was first diagnosed, I think I could have hugely benefited from speaking to someone about grasping my new diagnosis and how it was affecting my mental health and interpersonal relationships.”

The daytime group is complemented by a bi-monthly evening education group, facilitated by Brenda, who has been with the Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases since 1989.

The education group is organized by a volunteer patient/family steering committee with participation from health professionals. This steering group of patients serve as moderators and help to select the topics that will be covered. Since the fall of 2018, the sessions have been recorded on the Ontario Telemedicine Network, so they can be available to anyone who has an IBD diagnosis across the country.

Brenda is consistently encouraged by the generosity of the patients in wanting to give back by sharing their experiences with others – either through these groups or the patient buddy program. “Their resilience is inspirational,” she says.

The daytime peer support group meets on the last Wednesday of the month from September to June. The full schedule can be found here.

The evening education group takes place on the last Monday of the months of September, November, January, March and May. More details can be found here.

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