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Grant Helps Shepherd Center Step Up Peer Support Program

Shepherd Center is using a research grant to step up peer support for patients with spinal cord injury (SCI), giving them one-on-one advice from former patients on how to thrive after discharging from the hospital.

Thanks to grants from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Shepherd Center has added a fourth peer support employee. All four are living successfully with SCI, and three were treated at Shepherd Center.

Thirty other people with SCI have completed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation volunteer training certification program and are serving as peer mentors at Shepherd Center so that specific needs of the current patients can be met.

“Even with all the good teaching we do at Shepherd Center, sometimes information is better retained when it’s coming from your peers – people who are out of the hospital and living full, active lives,” said Julie Gassaway, senior clinical research scientist and co-investigator on the research project funded by the grant.

Peer interactions may help people develop the confidence needed to adapt to their “new normal of living full and active lives after injury,” Gassaway said.  The opportunity to interact with others who have ‘been there, done that’ during a patient’s stay at Shepherd Center and for a period of time after discharge will help to develop the confidence to manage things such as bladder and bowel programs, transferring into and out of vehicles, using public transportation, and other things needed to be active community participants, she added. 

“The overall goal is to reduce the need for patients to go back to the hospital for things that could be managed at home if people had the information needed to self-manage certain conditions,” Gassaway said.

For more information on peer support at Shepherd Center, click here.

Written by David Simpson
Photo by Louie Favorite

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.