I first came across the Posture and Mobility Group (PMG) when I became the outpatient occupational therapist (OT) for the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow. I found an old journal sitting on my desk, left by my predecessor and, when I looked up PMG online I was pleased to find that membership is free of charge, and that journals were now digital. I quickly joined up and in a short space of time I have already reaped the benefits.
My predecessor had over 20 years of seating experience, so I still feel like a relative newbie to the world of seating assessment and spinal cord injury. Joining PMG has given me the opportunity to undertake training in seating assessment, to network and keep myself up to date with current research, best practice and the wide range of products on the market. I was then very fortunate to be awarded a bursary to attend the PMG Conference 2016.
As part of my role, I work with long-term wheelchair users who require ongoing assessment and review of seating, posture and pressure issues. My client group are vulnerable to pressure ulcers due to reduced mobility and sensation. I am required to review their sitting posture as well as pressure mapping, and providing pressure cushions to maintain and manage posture and skin integrity.
The PMG proceedings started with the ever-inspiring and positive Ade Adepitan (Paralympian and patron of Go Kids Go) sharing his journey with us. What better way to start the conference than with his inspirational story, and what better reminder of why we do what we do - provide seating systems so that people can thrive and go on to fulfil their potential.
There was such a wide range of parallel sessions that I must admit it was hard to choose which ones to go to! As the largest part of my role is pressure ulcer prevention, I decided to focus on this during the conference and attended the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (EPUAP) presentations first. A bioengineering approach to the early detection of pressure ulcers by Peter Worsley, a bioengineer from the University of Southampton, was particularly informative, and I have gained a deeper understanding of the physiological factors and forces related to pressure ulcer development. I have already used some of this information in an education session with physiotherapy and occupational therapy colleagues within the spinal unit.
Another bit of research I found interesting was Evaluation of custom-made seat cushions: pressure relief characteristics by Jennifer Bramley from the rehabilitation unit in Swansea, regarding the efficacy of sacral cut outs. I have not prescribed these myself, but I often find that patients who have had their injury longer tend to come to me looking for a replacement bespoke cushion and request to keep the sacral cut out. It was interesting to hear that the evidence shows that using a lighter foam has a better outcome than using a sacral cut out, and therefore I plan to review this, using our own pressure mapping system.
Working in spinal injuries, I was particularly interested in A paralysed system, the report produced by the Spinal Injuries Association and All-Party Parliamentary Group on Spinal Cord Injury. Due to my return travel arrangements, I missed the presentation by its author, Lone Rose, but luckily had picked up a copy of the report on my way around the exhibition. Part of the study highlights the lack of formal training for therapists in relation to seating assessment and provision. Reflecting on my own training in seating, most has been by learning “on the job” and working closely with the experienced therapists within my unit. Until I came across PMG I had not found any formal training on seating assessment, and feel the group provides a really essential service to clinicians like myself in helping us develop skills and in providing networks with other professionals in the specialist seating world. It is also reassuring to know that sessions I may have missed at the conference will later be available as online recordings on the PMG website.
During the conference there was plenty of time to browse the stands in the exhibition and learn about new products on the market. I deal with the five wheelchair services in Scotland, but I also find that a number of my patients wish to self-fund, and I therefore need to know what products are on the market for private purchase as well as those provided through the NHS. If I don’t keep up, then it is not long before a patient comes to me seeking my opinion about a new product they have found online.
Attending the conference was also a lot of fun, with amazing social events and other opportunities for networking. At the Gala Dinner I actually met up with some of the staff from my local wheelchair service and, through dancing and chatting and even a conga line, we managed to make good connections, and have arranged to visit each other’s services. (Photograph of the Gala Dinner after party - photographer Suzie Hunt).
There are many inspiring people involved in the world of seating in the UK, and it is wonderful to be part of that. Being from an occupation that has activity at the heart of what we do, it was great to hear that, alongside comfort, postural alignment and skin integrity, the emphasis at the conference was on ‘function’ being the ultimate goal for any seating system.
I had heard previously that the PMG Conference is the event to attend and it really lived up to that reputation. So anyone who wants to sponsor me to attend next year, please do get in touch!
Rose, L.S. (2015). A paralysed system? An inquiry into the provision of local health services for people being discharged from spinal cord injury centres. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Spinal Cord Injury