Note: This post is based on the datablitz presentation “What role does social media have in rehabilitation after a traumatic brain injury?” delivered on the 4th May at the ASSBI/NZRA Inaugural Trans-Tasman Conference 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand.
I remember when I was studying to become a speech pathologist and I got my very first email account (it was a Hotmail account way back then!). These days, I couldn’t do my job without email – let alone manage many aspects of my life. Actually, at the moment I couldn’t do my job without social media either, so is it ‘out there’ to consider the use of social media as a skill that people with brain injury may need during rehabilitation? People may want to learn or relearn how to use social media safely and successfully after their injury – whether it be for personal or professional reasons.
The use of information and communication technologies (or ICT) during rehabilitation after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) isn’t a new concept – research was first published on the use of email in rehab after TBI over 15 years ago, and the use of internet chat rooms around 9 years ago. This research showed us that training in the use of ICT can work.
My PhD research exploring use of social media from the perspectives of people with TBI, examining their use of one type of social media (Twitter), and how TBI is discussed in Twitter has shown that:
- All used more than one social media platform (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
- They learnt to use social media through trial and error
- They also reported difficulties with cognitive fatigue and understanding concepts around using different social media platforms
- None had received any support to use it aside from setting up their account
- In over 30, 000 tweets – only a handful of people with TBI mentioned rehabilitation at all
- Check out the poster below for more information on what people with a TBI told me about their experiences of using Twitter (presented at the ASSBI/NZRA 2019 conference)
So we have an idea of what people with TBI experience – but what about health professionals? This study aimed to find out what the experiences and perspectives were of health professionals working in TBI rehabilitation on use of social media by people with TBI.
Two focus groups were conducted with health professionals working in TBI rehabilitation services (in metropolitan Sydney, across inpatient and community rehabilitation services). In total, 11 health professionals took part (4 males, and 7 females). Disciplines or roles that were represented included speech pathology, occupational therapy, nursing, rehabilitation case management, recreational therapy, and service management.
The participants discussed concerns about vulnerability, risk of exploitation, and reputation management for people using social media after a TBI. They saw their role was to protect people with TBI from harm, either through imposing restrictions on social media use or addressing problems as they occurred.
They wanted to be proactive – but most of them unsure how to go about it as they weren’t actively engaging with social media themselves. Guidance, training, and supports are required for health professionals to incorporate use of social media into assessment and rehabilitation after TBI.
So what else did they say and what does it all mean? Check out the poster below (presented at the ASSBI/NZRA 2019 conference) and stay tuned for my next publication where I discuss the findings in more detail.
I would like to acknowledge and thank the following:
- All of the research participants involved in my PhD studies for their time and willingness to share their experiences and perspectives on the use of social media during rehabilitation after a TBI
- My co-authors and PhD supervisors Bronwyn, Leanne, Stuart, and Stephen (and their affiliated organisations) for their ongoing support and expertise
- The Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (ASSBI) for the student conference travel award enabling me to present this research at the ASSBI/NZRA Inaugural Trans-Tasman Conference 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand.