Utilizing Amputee Support Programs to Complement Clinical Practice

MARY POINT-NOVOTNY, RN, MSChicago, Illinois


While interdisciplinary clinic teams have successfully addressed the physical and prosthetic needs of amputee patients, they have been less successful in providing holistic rehabilitation. This does not indicate failure of the clinical professionals but, rather, demonstrates the reasonable limit of our ability to provide emotional support and coping skills for successful adaptation to the loss of a limb and the acceptance and use of a prosthesis.

One means of support is by using trained amputee visitors who can provide a recent amputee and his family with care-not cure. Visitors offer reassurance and a realistic viewpoint and share experiences and information. They provide practical suggestions for coping with everyday problems and, most important, hope for the future. They demonstrate that a full life is achievable, not by concentrating on what has been lost but on making the most of what remains.

Institutions, as well, benefit from the efforts of support groups. Their voluntary nature makes them cost effective, freeing the professional staff, enhancing the quality of care, improving resource utilization and increasing hospital viability.

Although various opinions exist regarding appropriate roles for health care institutions and professionals in self-help groups, many possibilities for complementary relationships are feasible and should be investigated. New models for care can provide the human link between patients and professionals that is necessary to complete the process of adaptation to amputation.

*La Rabida Children's Hospital and Research Center, East 65th Street at Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL 60649