Enhanced Peer Mentor Program

The Enhanced Peer Mentor Program has been successfully developed and piloted at the Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA, one of 14 SCI Model System hospitals in the country. The Greater Boston Chapter (GBC) of United Spinal Association is collaborating with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston, MA, also one of the 14 SCI Model System Centers, to adapt and conduct a feasibility and implementation pilot program on Spaulding’s SCI unit where the GBC’s satellite office is located and services are provided. This program involves enhancements to Spaulding’s inpatient educational programs and to how, when, and at what intensity the Enhanced Peer Mentor Program is initiated with their patients, both inpatient and outpatient.

The Enhanced Peer Mentor Program is an innovative project which embodies the peer mentor concept that people are most empowered to create real change in their own lives when support and modeling are provided by someone with similar life experience. The program is based on patient-centered care. It is more pro-active, intense and engaging than traditional, referral-based peer mentoring. To enhance participation, the enhanced peer mentors work with patients as a support in all areas of rehab, from therapeutic interventions to education sessions to 1:1 meetings. In addition, and very importantly, in the enhanced program, peer mentors remain actively involved through a patient’s transition home and back into the community. This is all to help “normalize” life with a spinal cord injury.

Early results of the Shepherd Center Program have shown an improvement in the ability of newly-injured participants, in the acute rehabilitation hospital setting, to self-manage, and a decrease in re-hospitalizations. This can ultimately lead to earlier independence, integration and an enhanced quality of life for individuals with an SCI.