Evaluating the effectiveness of peer support services for people with newly acquired spinal cord impairment



The aim of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness of peer support provided to people over the age of 18 with newly acquired spinal cord impairments. This project will focus on a sample of patients who received peer support during their rehabilitation from either the New Zealand Spinal Trust (NZST) at the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch or Spinal Support New Zealand (SSNZ) at the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit in Auckland. The aim of this research is to improve the peer support service provided by these organisations by developing our understanding about what aspects of peer support work best for people with newly acquired SCI, especially during their transition back home. This study will develop the structure for ongoing evaluation, that can be used for monitoring and service development going forward.


People with newly acquired SCI will be recruited to take part in a two-part survey – one near their discharge back into the community, and another six months after their discharge from the spinal unit. Participants will also be given the option to take part in an in-depth qualitative interview about their experience of peer support near their discharge, and at six months after discharge, from the spinal unit. We will also be analysing process and outcome audit data collected by NZST and SSNZ about who receives peer support, and the type and amount of peer support they are provided with.

Status of Research

Data collection in underway – we are (1) interviewing people about their experiences of peer support and (2) gathering surveys about peoples experiences of peer support when they are about to be discharged from the inpatient rehabiliation units.  We will reinterview these people in 6-months time.

We are also collecting and analysing audit data that indicates who peer support is devliered to, and the type/amount of that support.


Key Contact

Dr Rachelle Martin,
Burwood Academy of Independent Living
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Mobile:  +64 21 223 3362
Email: rachelle.martin@burwood.org.nz

Researchers and Collaborators

Dr Jo Nunnerley,
Burwood Academy of Independent Living.
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Mobile:  +64 21 187 2651
Email: jo.nunnerley@burwood.org.nz

Dr Johnny Bourke,
Burwood Academy of Independent Living
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Mobile:  +64 21 112 5596
Email: johnny.bourke@burwood.org.nz

Research Assistants

Josh Caldwell, Burwood Academy of Independent Living.  Josh also works as a Peer Supporter with New Zealand Spinal Trust.