Rachel Keane, Health Promotion graduate; Dr Seamus Boyle, ENT Department and Dr Eoin Deering McCarthy, GP Trainee at Sligo University Hospital with the Irish Healthcare Centre Award
The Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Department at Sligo University Hospital (SUH) was the winner of the Irish Healthcare Centre Award for the Best Use of Social Media for their work to raise awareness of Surfer’s Ear. The condition, which is also called External Auditory Canal Exostoses, can affect anyone who takes to the open water regularly causing bony growths to develop in the ear canals and can lead to repeated ear infections and even hearing loss.
The year-long project involved determining awareness of Surfer’s Ear, holding ear check clinics in the hospital and at open water events and most significantly, a public awareness campaign with targeted information for hospitals, GP clinics and national sporting bodies with extensive use of social media including video.
Dr Seamus Boyle, ENT Department at SUH said, “There has been a dramatic increase in people participating in open water sports such as open water swimming, triathlon and kayaking. Sligo was the ideal location to carry out research to determine awareness of Surfer’s Ear, the number of people who may have the condition and to advise people to protect their ears.
“Social media has changed the way that we can communicate with patients and the general public. We needed to reach cold water athletes and through the existing networks that the national sporting bodies and individual clubs have in place, we were able to present information in a format that they could share quickly and easily in order to effectively spread our message widely.
“This was a team effort by the hospital, that went beyond just the ENT Department and I would like to acknowledge everyone involved in our project including the care staff, non-clinical teams as well as the nursing and medical staff. In addition, I would like to thank the Irish Institute of Otorhinolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery for their support for our research; the national sporting bodies for their participation; and the cold water athletes who contributed to our survey, ear clinics and videos.
“As we head towards winter, our advice to everyone enjoying the open water is to use ear plugs. The majority of studies show that ear protection reduces the risk of developing Surfer’s Ear. For more information go to www.saolta.ie/ears.”
Grainne McCann, General Manager at SUH added, “The hospital provides a regional ENT service to the people of the North West and the ENT Department here are actively involved in research and further education to benefit all our patients. It is wonderful to have their hard work acknowledged by the Irish Healthcare Centre Awards.”
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