- Robyn Shepardson, PhD, Clinical Research Psychologist, VA Center for Integrated Healthcare, Syracuse, NY
Peer specialists are individuals in recovery who have training and professional roles offering support to others facing similar situations. Fitting with the conference theme, peer specialists are members of the integrated primary care (IPC) workforce who contribute to delivery of patient-centered care. This study explored implementation considerations associated with various roles for peer specialists in IPC settings. We will present qualitative data from an exploratory descriptive mixed methods study of key stakeholder feedback on integrating peer support into primary care. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 19 providers (7 Veteran peer specialists, 6 primary care providers, 6 integrated behavioral health providers) and 15 primary care patients recruited from the Syracuse VA Medical Center to examine perceived strengths and challenges with a variety of roles for peer specialists in IPC (e.g., patient navigation, leading groups). We used conventional content analysis to inductively develop codes from the data. Commonly perceived strengths of peers included their lived experience with recovery, their ability (vs. other providers) to share more personal experiences with patients, patients being more honest or receptive with peers (vs. other providers), and the innate comradery that exists among Veterans. Commonly perceived potential challenges included peers needing additional support, supervision, or training to fulfill certain roles; lack of clarity on peers’ role or scope; and possible difficulties establishing rapport if peers and patients are demographically dissimilar. Overall, patients and IPC staff perceive a variety of benefits related to improving patient comfort and trust from having peer specialists serve in various roles, alongside potential implementation challenges. Our findings can help inform clinical practice, implementation of peer support, and future research on peer support in IPC.
- Describe at least three roles that peer specialists could serve within integrated primary care
- Identify at least 3 potential strengths of peer specialists working within integrated primary care
- Identify at least 3 potential challenges of peer specialists working within integrated primary care