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


Research Framework

Engaging Rehabilitation


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 and analysis is complete
  • Knowledge Translation Workshop with NZST and SSNZ occurred in June 2020
  • Reports for NZST and SSNZ complete


Components of this work presented at:

  • BAIL peer group presentation, May 2019 – ‘A cunning plan to faciliate funding of peer support services for people with newly acquired SCI in NZ’
  • In March 2020, Rachelle attempted to talk about the work that she is doing alongside the NZ Spinal Trust and Spinal Support NZ around peer support for people with SCI. The aim was to present a poster at the UK Knowledge Mobilisation conference in Birmingham, and an oral at the International Realist Conference in Dublin. She got to London before both conference was cancelled (due to COVID-19).  But the (well-travelled) poster is still relevant so Rachelle is keen to share it with you. Have a look. Have a read. Ask questions. Make comments. Or, just like a normal conference, slink past without making eye contact while sipping your coffee and eating a date scone!UKKMb Peer Support Poster

Key Contact

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

Researchers and Collaborators

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

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

Research Assistants

Josh Caldwell
Research Assistant & PLEx Network Coordinator,
Burwood Academy
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Josh also works as a Peer Supporter with New Zealand Spinal Trust.

This project is supported by a Lotteries Translational Research Grant.

  • Peer Support Provided to People with Newly Acquired SCI in New Zealand. A translational research project summary report. August 2020.

Rachelle, Jo and Josh co-authored this report on their research exploring how well peer support met the needs of people with newly acquired spinal cord injury in New Zealand , what was working well and what could be improved, and ways to ensure peer support is provided to best meet their needs.

See the report here: Peer Support Evaluation Summary Report

  • PLEx as research partners. Peer Support Worker , Josh Caldwell participated as a research assistant in this project. In these videos, Josh discusses the value of partnerships between health professionals, PLEx  and researchers to health outcomes, and translating knowledge gained from this research to his work with people with spinal cord injury.

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