Peer mentorships and benefits for individuals with SCI

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Lay summary by Jasleen Dhaliwal

Edited by Crystal Han

This is the lay summary on the original article by iCORDians Robert Shaw, Emily Giroux, Dr. Heather Gainforth, and Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis. Read the original article here.


Why is this study important?

Individuals with SCI who are transitioning from a hospital setting to community living can face challenging circumstances, such as feeling overwhelmed and learning how to cope, all while dealing with physical impairment. The process as a whole can be overwhelming and complex. The implementation of peer mentorship can facilitate a smooth transition. Peer mentorship programs pair a mentor with a mentee based on their similarities and interests. Overall, the authors of this study believe that the process of peer mentorship can help individuals with SCI in overcoming and coping with certain challenges associated with SCI, such as reintegrating back into society.

What is the purpose of the study?  

The purpose of this study was to understand how the relationship between a mentor and a mentee differ between telephone call and video conference interactions. The results of this study allowed the authors to deduce the optimal conditions to best form strong mentor and mentee relationships.

How was the study conducted? 

Mentors and mentees either met with each other over video chat or had a telephone conversation. Individuals with SCI were the mentees, whereas others were mentors. Volunteer mentors were recruited from a non profit organization, SCI British Columbia (SCI BC). This organization provides peer mentoring services for individuals with SCI. 

What do these findings mean for people with SCI?

There are two major findings of this paper:

  1. Removal of barriers for individuals with SCI: The relationships formed between mentors and mentees did not differ based on mode of contact. These findings mean that individuals with SCI are able to access the necessary help to overcome certain challenges in a remote setting. Moreover, a supportive mentor and mentee relationship can form even in situations where the two individuals are not able to see each other’s faces. In fact, it was found that the nature of the conversations and dynamic of the mentor mentee relationship did not differ by much between video chats and telephone calls. This finding removes the transportation and physical barrier that many individuals with SCI experience. This finding also removes technological barriers, given that individuals do not need access to a smartphone or laptop in order to video chat. Instead, it is sufficient to have access to a phone and the opportunity to form a meaningful and headful relationship is still available. 
  2. Long lasting benefits for all: Overall, individuals with SCI have reported several long lasting benefits after participating in peer mentorship experiences, such as an increase in motivation and self efficacy. On the other hand,  for mentees, this has translated to an improvement in health, self management, and a reduction in unplanned hospital visits. Essentially, the peer mentorship program positively impacts the well being of both the mentor and the mentee.

Limitations of the study

In this study, the mentor and mentee relationship was developed over telephone calls and video conferences. The setting of this study greatly reflects the restricted in-person contact due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, this study is limited in demonstrating the mentor-mentee relationship in a virtual setting. Furthermore, the authors are unable to make a comparison between a virtual and in-person mentor-mentee relationship. However, other published articles do conclude that there is no difference in the mode of delivery and impact on the mentee.

What does this mean for the SCI community?

For the SCI community, this means impacted individuals can access peer mentorship programs over the telephone. Above all, those who do not have access to a computer or internet still have access to the same resources as those who do.

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