Home > RNJ > 2005 > January/February > Commentary: Social Support in Cyberspace: Lessons Learned

Commentary: Social Support in Cyberspace: Lessons Learned
Janet Secrest, PhD RN

Rehabilitation Nursing Editorial Board Member

The use of computer-assisted technology has become commonplace in health care, but nursing applications are lagging. These authors report their experience in implementing a technological solution to providing social support. The literature has long since demonstrated the value of social support. Local newspapers post numerous listings of support groups, and these groups are well attended. Online chat groups also are proliferating. What better idea than to combine these two ideas!

Reporting not only the study findings, but also “important lessons” is essential to the rehabilitation nursing discipline. Resources are too scarce for these lessons not to be shared. In incorporating research findings into practice, we need to understand the pitfalls and successes.

Much planning went into this project. Although such preparation increases the time and cost of projects, the benefits of careful design in increasing the likelihood of drawing sound conclusions regarding the applicability of the findings to other institutions cannot be overstated.

From a nursing theoretical perspective, the adaptation theory could be nested in Roy’s Adaptation Theory (Roy & Andrews, 1999). This theory, like other nursing theories, takes a holistic view. Another nursing theory that would guide implementation is King’s (1995) theory of mutual goal attainment. The foci of King’s theory are the interaction (the online communication), perception (of illness, of support, of information) and goals of individuals involved (perceived support, knowledge, etc). Evaluation would then be of the goals.

The evidence in evidence-based practice is often thought of as research only. The authors of “Lessons Learned” offer us a clear example of evidence in all three domains: research, theory, and practice. The research supported the notion that a computer-based support system can be effective, the theory of adaptation provided coherence to the design and interpretation of the findings, and the practice applications were systematically evaluated for successes and limitations.


King, I. (1995). The theory of goal attainment. In M. Frey and C. Sieloff (Eds.), Advancing King’s systems framework and theory of nursing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Roy, C.R., & Andrews, H.A. (1999). The Roy adaptation model (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.