How did the group get started?
Hospital for Special Care (HSC) is a long-term acute-care hospital, which means that many of our patients reside here for extended periods of time. Many are technology-dependent, so they are limited in the variety of activities in which they can participate. Amy Frey is the hospital librarian, but she also works a few hours each week at a local public library. After participating in a session of the public library's book group, Amy thought that a book group at the hospital would be a great way to join patients and sta. in a mutually appealing activity outside the clinical relationship that usually exists between these two groups. Mary Jo Archambault, a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at the hospital, was equally enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop another leisure activity for the patients. Mary Jo spread the word among the patients, Amy started reaching out to staff, and the first meeting was held in spring 2005.
How would you describe your group?
The group size varies, depending on the health-related issues of the patient members. In general, about seven patients read the book (or listen to it on audio), and about five sta. members participate. The staff members include the hospital librarian, the therapeutic recreation specialist, a psychologist, a nurse, and a member of our fiscal department. In many cases we obtain audio books for those who cannot manage a conventional book, or one patient member will read the book to another. Overall, we are an eclectic mix!
How does your group operate?
We meet once a month in the common area of our Respiratory Care Unit for about one hour. Because we meet in a hospital unit, the activities of the unit surround us and we have learned to deal with the "bells and whistles." Individuals sitting nearby often listen in and sometimes ask about the books we discuss and how to get them. We are open to any new members who want to join. Some patient members can't make it to meetings because of health issues, but they will convey their thoughts about the book through a sta. member. This method has also been used by individuals who have limited ability to communicate orally but can type up their thoughts. For the 2005 holiday season, sta. and patients created a wreath depicting our belief that books "transform lives."
Amy facilitates the discussions, but no one person dominates the proceedings. Individuals with speech problems print out their comments, or Mary Jo talks...