One of the most important programs offered by the Henry B. Betts LIFE Center is our peer mentor program. Peer mentors include former patients, family members and caregivers who are available to discuss with others their firsthand experiences with the possibilities of post-rehabilitation success.
Peer mentors accomplish one goal of the Henry B. Betts LIFE Center: showing patients how to partner with their healthcare teams to make the best choices for themselves and their families.
What Makes a Good peer Mentor?
If you become a peer mentor, your role will be to use your life experiences to help patients and their families with newer injuries or diagnosis and offer your support. You will listen and provide support based on the unique needs of each person. You will draw from your own personal experiences to share insight and strategies from a patients’ perspective.
The LIFE Center values mentors who have diverse backgrounds, conditions and experiences to help all of our patients with support. Currently, we have more than 35 peer mentors of various conditions.
Can Anyone Be a Peer Mentor?
Time and experience after rehabilitation is key — as a general rule the LIFE Center prefers potential peer mentors to have be at least two years post-rehabilitation. The LIFE Center team screens and interviews all potential peer mentors to find those who have made successful transitions back to the community. Once confirmed into the program, new peer mentors enroll in a formal training program.
Why a Formal Training Program?
It’s critical for a peer mentor to know how to navigate delicate conversations with new patients and to answer from their own lived experiences and perspectives. Training and role-playing with other new peer mentors is a vital component to address personal and medical conversations without “prescribing” or “advising.”
In addition to the initial training for new peer mentors, additional mentoring, coaching and talent development training are offered to experienced peer mentors through quarterly in-service programs.
What Kinds of Questions Do Peer Mentors Get Asked?
Because peer mentors draw on their lived perspectives and insights while incorporating a patient-centered approach, they should be ready to talk about the following topics:
- Being your own advocate.
- Building and sustaining relationships.
- Coping and adjusting.
- Getting around and accessibility.
- Managing care, equipment and activities of daily living.
- Quality of life.
- Staying active.
- Transitioning to the community.
What Is the Time Commitment for Peer Mentorship?
The exact time commitment varies depending on the number of referrals for specific patient conditions. But, on average, peer mentors can expect about to be available about one to three hours per week. In addition, peer mentors are required to shadow experienced peer mentors as part of their initial training, attend two out of four in-services, and attend special events throughout the year that take place during weekday daytime hours.
How Long Is a Peer Mentor's Term?
Due to the extensive training, the LIFE Center asks peer mentors to commit at least one year to the program. However, many peer mentors have been part of the program for more than five years.
How Has the Peer Mentor Program Changed with COVID-19?
Great news! Despite COVID-19 restrictions on in-person visits, peer mentors have been able to provide their services virtually using platforms such as WebEx or phone call. The great benefit — and the silver lining — of the expanded use of technology is that everyone, including family members, can connect from wherever they are while maintaining their safety across all the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab levels of care.
As of recent, the program is resuming in person visits upon completing hospital COVID requirements in addition to continuing virtual and remote connections.
If you are interested in becoming a peer mentor, please contact Cris Mix, OTR/L, Education Program Manager and Peer Mentor Coordinator, in the Henry B. Betts LIFE Center at 312.238.6230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cris Mix, OTR/L is an Occupational therapist with 30+ years of experience who specializes in pediatrics, physical rehabilitation, spinal cord injury, brain injury, and family education. As the Peer Mentor Coordinator and Education program manager in the Henry B. Betts LIFE Center, Cris coordinates the Peer Mentor program for patients, families, and staff across the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab systems of care.