Manage Peer Support

Organizations, program managers, and other people involved with peer support programs are often responsible for their design and delivery. Such tasks often include recruiting participants and people to be trained as peer supporters, monitoring the interventions delivery, creating incentives and trouble-shooting problems to keep peer supporters involved, as well as general maintenance to sustain and improve a peer support program. Management resources to address these tasks can be helpful both to organizations and managers that are planning a new peer support intervention and to those who are strengthening an existing peer support intervention.

Learn more about keys to successful management of peer support programs

In this section you will find general information and resources about various aspects of managing peer support

Overview of Program Implementation

How the interventions are being delivered is critical to successful peer support programs. In addition to managing people who provide peer support, attention to involvement of your organization, community partners and program participants are also very important.

The following resources provide overview and suggestions for managing program implementation.

General Information

Featured Examples  and Tools for Managers

  • The Robert Wood Johnson Diabetes Initiative’s resources offers multiple assessment instruments, evaluation tools,  and example manuals useful to program management and implementation.
  • The Peer Support Resource Manual by British Columbia Ministry of Health Services includes all components of developing and implementing a peer support program for adults with mental illness.
  • The Move More program’s lay health educator manual is an example guide for implementing lay health educator interventions and training for promoting physical activity.
  • The RAND Corporation provides this guide for mental health clinical staff to implement and sustain a consumer provider program.

More Resources

  • The Stanford’s Implementation Manual provides information and guidance for administrators and trainers of the Stanford’s chronic disease self-management programs.
  • The Community Health Worker (CHW) Section on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Diabetes Initiative website offers materials and tools for managing CHWs.
  • The CRS Guide to Working with Volunteers from Catholic Relief Services provides standardized guidance on working with volunteers such as community health workers, health promoters, village health workers, peer educators, etc.

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Recruitment of peer supporters

Recruitment of peer supporters will vary between projects and must be tailored to fit individual purposes and environment. There are, however, several methods for recruiting the most successful group of peer leaders. Before beginning recruitment, it is essential to define the group of peers you would like to recruit as well as define the community makeup with which you’ll be working. Recruitment must be straight forward with presentation of clearly defined roles of the peer leaders and an accurate reflection of your expectations. Recruitment can be done through primary care physicians or diabetes clinics, asking for clinician nominations of their patients, and also through community linkages and relationships.

Before starting recruitment process, it is important to first define peer supporter roles and responsibilities. Some other things to consider when recruiting peer supporters:

  • Providing a job description of the peer supporter’s role and expectations
  • Defining goals and objectives for the peer supporters
  • Defining prerequisites: skills, knowledge, etc.
  • Using social networks to recruit
  • Employing a systematic screening process of potential peer supporters

General Information

Featured Examples and Tools for Managers

  • The Chronic Illness Peer Support Network’s Best Practice Framework introduces how to recruit, select and screen peer supporters for a volunteer-based, chronic illness peer support program
  • The peer mentoring program for individuals with brain injury and their families by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine et al. addresses recruitment and screening in sections C and D

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Selection of peer supporters

Recruitment and selection of peer supporters are closely related. Therefore, it is important to use the defined prerequisites of peer supporters and community characteristics to guide the selection process. Specifically, in addition to direct experience with managing a disease or condition, peer supporters should be similar to the population profile of the people with whom they will work in regards to issues such as age, ethnicity, and other personal characteristics. More importantly, peer support relies on the ability to develop quality relationships. Therefore, inclusion of certain interpersonal traits (e.g., empathy, motivation), social skills, and sufficient time availability is also crucial.

Some questions to consider in selecting peer supporters:

  • What is your target community?
  • Are your peer supporters a part of that community?
  • Will you pay your peer supporters?
  • What is the time commitment for peer supporters?
  • Is it a requirement that your peer supporters have type 2 diabetes?
  • What is this person’s knowledge about diabetes self-management?
  • How well does this person manage their diabetes?
  • What clinic or provider does this person visit?
  • How well does this person relate to others?
  • What motivates this person?
  • How available is this person to provide regular and ongoing support?

General Information

Featured Examples and Tools for Managers

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Ongoing supervision and support of peer supporters

It is unrealistic to expect to get everything right before starting a peer support program. Many issues are not controllable, and what peer supporters encounter in the field is very likely to differ from what was being addressed in the pre-program training. Therefore, ongoing supervision, training and feedback are critical.
Soliciting feedback from peer supporters as well as those receiving peer support can help detect delivery issues (e.g. , peer supporters giving directive support by telling people what to do rather than helping them to implement their plans through non-directive support) and intervene to address these issues. Additionally, arranging regular meetings with a designated program staff (e.g., a nurse) and conducting refresher training courses can enhance peer supporters’ ability and confidence to continue providing effective peer support.

General Information

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Retention

Once peer supporters are selected, a number of steps can be taken to clarify, recognize, honor, and maintain their contributions. For example, contracted hours and expectations may be agreed upon and signed by both parties. Contracts should clearly define roles, expectations, objectives, time commitment, and ethical boundaries. It should be obvious how seriously the sponsoring organization takes them and their position. Throughout the recruitment process and study, the peer supporters should be given plenty of feedback and input. Positive reinforcements should be given regularly to the peer supporters, be they tangible or otherwise, and support for these peers must be available to avoid the burnout and turnover that often threaten peer support programs’ effectiveness.

Here are several steps that may be taken to ensure peer supporters’ retention:

  • Encourage peer supporters’ input in defining their roles, activities and responsibilities
  • Ask about peer supporters’ expectations for being a peer supporter and how they feel about meeting these  expectations
  • Outline the responsibilities of peer supporters and regularly remind of these responsibilities
  • Provide adequate training and training materials for peer supporters
  • Require a workable time commitment to the project
  • Provide and reinforce the message that input of peer supporters is valued and appreciated
  • Organize peer supporters’ get-together events on a regular basis where they can provide support to each other, exchange the peer supporter experiences, and suggest various problem-solving strategies
  • Make sure that peer supporters have constant support from program staff in case they need any advice related to their peer supporting activities
  • Maintain contact information of peer supporters and update it regularly
  • Have a protocol to follow if a peer supporter leaves the project
  • Cover travel, communication and other related expenses

 General Information

Featured Examples and Tools for Managers

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Program sustainability

Sustainability requires attention to people, organizations and resources. The scope of sustainability covers programmatic, financial and systematic aspects. In addition to ability to demonstrate efficacy of peer support interventions, in many cases sustainability of peer support needs some kind of infrastructure on which to anchor programs and building the capacity of organizations to respond. This applies to both volunteer-based and paid-based peer support programs. Steps to achieve sustainability often involves:

  • Regularly seeking, developing, and maintaining a funding base for the program
  • Making and strengthening connections with major stakeholders in health care and in the community
  • Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the program and lessons learn

General Information

Featured Examples and Tools for Managers

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