Using design thinking to improve self-efficacy in spinal cord injury patients

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Project led by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University.
  • Focused on spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
  • Aimed to help spinal cord injury patients to adjust to their condition psychologically, by developing skills in self-efficacy, problem solving and logical reasoning.
  • Delivered a series of 'design thinking' workshops for patients, focusing on creative skills such as lateral thinking, prototyping, and verbal and visual communication.

The Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust project aimed to help spinal cord injury patients to adjust to their condition psychologically, by developing self-efficacy, problem solving and logical reasoning skills. The team developed a series of 'design thinking' workshops which gave patients a chance to explore creative ways to view the world and solve problems, including through lateral thinking, prototyping, and verbal and visual communication.

The workshops were delivered to small groups of three to four patients, with each group attending four 2-hour sessions over an 8-month period, alongside existing therapies. The patients had sustained spinal cord injuries but did not have traumatic brain injuries.

Who was involved

The project was led by a consultant in spinal injuries. Other team members included a registrar in spinal injuries, a clinical psychologist in spinal injuries and experts in design practice and research. 

The workshops were delivered by design researchers from Sheffield Hallam University Art and Design Research Centre.

Outcomes

  • 33 patients were recruited to the workshops.
  • Around 140 workshops took place.
  • Participants gave positive feedback on the workshops, with most patients wanting more sessions.
  • There was no detrimental impact on length of stay or the readmission rate.
  • The intervention produced statistically significant improvements in two key quantitative metrics: the EQ5D (quality of life survey) and the PAM (patient activation measure).

Challenges

The team encountered challenges around recruitment, development of session content and format, and getting buy-in from clinical staff.

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