An ethnographic study of the implementation of a transitional discharge model: peer supporters’ perspectives
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Background: Over the last three decades, there has been worldwide recognition of peer support contributions to improve mental healthcare provision. However, in the current literature, little attention has been paid to exploring perspectives of peer supporters on their involvement in mental health services provision. The purpose of the present study was to examine peer supporters' perspectives on the implementation of a transitional discharge model (TDM), an intervention for the community integration of people with mental illness. Methods: This paper represents ethnographic qualitative data collected as part of a study that used mixed methods to evaluate the implementation of TDM across nine hospitals from the Province of Ontario, in Canada. The study involved a sample of 66 peer supporters, who were recruited from participating Consumer/Survivor Initiative Organizations and Peer Support Programs. The study collected data using two sets of focus groups, which were held at 6 months and 1-year post implementation. Data analysis used an ethnography model of qualitative analysis. Results: Peer supporters expressed that their involvement in mental healthcare enhanced clients' autonomy and hope about their recovery, as well as established a safety net and reduced hospital readmissions. Peer supporters articulated that they assumed several roles to facilitate clients' transition from hospital to the community. These roles included: assisting clients in building their capacity and developing healthy routines; attending regular on-ward and community meetings; accompanying clients to their appointments; and working with clients to set goals for their recovery. The study showed hindrances to effective implementation of peer support programs, such as a lack of understanding and appreciation of peer supporter roles, lack of careful allocation of peer supporters to clients, and an absence of appropriate protocols for ensuring the safety and supervision of the peer supporters. Conclusions: Results of the TDM implementation demonstrated that involving peer supporters in mental healthcare delivery may benefit clients by enhancing autonomy and hope about their recovery, as well as establishing a safety net and reducing hospital readmissions. Results from the study have the potential to inform healthcare professionals and managers of strategies for developing effective peer support programs.
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