Blue color background with a person holding a tablet device

Enhance Your Care with a Free, Online Spinal Cord Injury Course for Personal Care Assistants

Understanding Spinal Cord Injury

A woman in a wheelchair is sitting at a picnic table next to a man. They are both Jeanne Zanca, MPT, PhD, FACRM, Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research

For many people with spinal cord injury (SCI), hands on help from personal care assistants (PCAs) is critical to prevent medical complications and enable community participation. Unfortunately, high rates of turnover among paid caregivers and a lack of knowledge among home health care workers about the unique needs of spinal cord injury make high-quality assistance difficult to find.

To help address these challenges, a web-based, introductory course entitled, “Understanding Spinal Cord Injury: A Course for Personal Care Assistants,” has been developed by Kessler Foundation in collaboration with Shepherd Center. The course provides an educational resource that people with SCI, their loved ones, and home health care organizations can use to help prepare PCAs to assist people with SCI. Course content was informed by qualitative research involving focus groups and interviews with people with SCI, SCI clinicians, and experienced PCAs. Content and format for the final course was guided by a steering committee of key partners (people with SCI, PCAs, home health care agency leaders and trainers, family members, and rehabilitation clinicians) and through pilot testing by PCAs, the targeted end-users of the course.

The course modules cover various SCI types, the physical impacts they create, personal and social challenges arising from them, common misconceptions, and secondary complications. Multimedia elements include PowerPoint presentations with voiceovers, clips from interviews with people with SCI and personal care assistants (PCAs), and videos. A resource list and discussion guide to aid communication between PCAs and clients with SCI are also included. This course was made possible by grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research and the Paralyzed Veterans of America Education Foundation. 

Interested personal care assistants, individuals with SCI or their loved ones, home health care organizations, and others can access this free educational resource here.