Objective: To explore the perspectives on hospital-based peer support of Chinese adults with spinal cord injury (SCI) in Tianjin Hospital.
Methodology: Using a generic qualitative research design, six inpatients with SCI from Tianjin Hospital, China were interviewed twice to explore their background and life experiences and their thoughts about the potential role of peers in their rehabilitation. A thematic analysis was conducted.
Results: Five higher-order themes were identified: 1) background and personal life, 2) rehabilitation experiences, 3) perspectives on peer support, 4) peer support delivery, and 5) anticipated outcomes. 1 & 2) Participants had unique family and employment backgrounds and varying degrees of satisfaction with their rehabilitation. 3) Their rehabilitation goals and focus shaped their perceptions for peer support. Participants who solely focused on the recovery of physical functioning highlighted that peers could supplement and help individualize rehabilitation exercise guidance while participants who concentrated on their future lives believed peers would help them learn skills to integrate in the community. However, other participants reported not being able to trust peers, especially because they are not healthcare providers. 4) Participants favored receiving peer support from online chat groups (i.e., WeChat), in-person conversations, and mentoring lectures. 5) Participants anticipated to obtain practical and emotional support from peers, as well be motivated and understood by peer models.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that Chinese inpatients with SCI have mixed perspectives on hospital-based peer support. Future research could attempt to design and customize peer support programs based on individual's rehabilitation goals to maximize its impact.