Role of peer support for people with a spinal cord injury

O'Dell, Lindsay; Earle, Sarah; Rixon, Andrew and Davies, Alison (2019). Role of peer support for people with a spinal cord injury. Nursing Standard, 34(4) pp. 69–75.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7748/ns.2018.e10869

Abstract

Spinal cord injuries can result in significant physiological and psychological challenges for patients. Nurses have an important role in the rehabilitation of people with a spinal cord injury, as does the provision of peer support by people who are 'living well' after experiencing a spinal cord injury.

Aim To explore peer support and whether it can have an effective role in a multidisciplinary team approach to supporting a patient with a spinal cord injury.

Method This was an independent evaluation that used an online survey, a focus group and telephone interviews to elicit the views of respondents about the Spinal Injury Association (SIA) peer support service in England and Wales. There were four groups of respondents: people with a spinal cord injury; their family and friends; peer support officers; and nurse specialists and other healthcare practitioners.

Findings It was identified that peer support officers were valued for their ability to provide a positive role model for people with a spinal cord injury. Healthcare practitioners involved in the care of people with a spinal cord injury also appreciated the training and support they received from peer support officers.

Conclusion This evaluation demonstrated that peer support officers were regarded as an important element of a multidisciplinary team approach to managing the care of those who had experienced a spinal cord injury. Peer support officers were also considered a valuable source of information and education, particularly for healthcare practitioners working in settings where spinal cord injury was not a common presentation.

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