Peers-fostering-hope-a-complement-to-acute-and-rehabilitation-care Peers Fostering Hope - A Complement to Acute and Rehabilitation Care

Peers Fostering Hope - A Complement to Acute and Rehabilitation Care

Peers Fostering Hope - A Complement to Acute & Rehabilitation CareJocelyne McKellar1, Donna MacKay2, Catherine Creede3, Jacqueline Willems1, Elizabeth Linkewich1, Shelley Sharp1

 1. Toronto Stroke Networks 2.March of Dimes Canada 3. The Potential Group

Summary of Peers Fostering Hope Presentation

Peers Fostering Hope: A complement to acute & rehabilitation care presents a study conducted at four Toronto hospitals and one integrated stroke unit in Oshawa that offered the Peers Fostering Hope program. A qualitative research design was used to collect narrative data through:

  • Individual semi-structured interviews with persons with stroke 

  • A focus group with peers 

  • Two focus groups with site champions 


The days and weeks following a stroke can be an overwhelming and stressful time for patients and families. Healthcare providers are skilled at managing medical and motor recovery issues, but lack first-hand knowledge of the patient’s experiences of living with a stroke to comfortably and adequately support their emotional needs.  Peer support can help bridge this gap by enhancing in-hospital care through an emotional and social connection between someone already successfully living with stroke in the community and someone newly affected by stroke. 

Research has shown that stroke patients want peer support. Engaging in conversations with others who share a similar experience can affect recovery by decreasing feelings of fear and isolation, enhancing confidence and the ability to cope, providing empowerment, motivation, hope and initiating new possibilities for the future. Peer support is also reciprocal. The individual providing the support is able to build self-confidence and reinforce the use of coping strategies that have worked for them and others.

There are few documented examples of programs using a one-to-one model in a hospital setting. The value of offering one-to-one peer support on a stroke unit (acute or rehabilitation) and understanding its impact is unclear. An ethics research board approved study was conducted in 2013 to:

Explore the value of the Peers Fostering Hope program, a non-clinical model of stroke care, from the perspective of the person receiving support (recipient), those providing the support (peers) and the healthcare providers (site champions) that support this mode of care in Toronto.

Program Description

Peers Fostering Hope (PFH) is an in-person, one-to-one peer support program for persons with stroke and their family/caregiver still residing in the hospital (acute and rehab) or attending outpatient rehabilitation.  The goal is to provide emotional support, hope for improved recovery, and decrease feelings of isolation by connecting with someone who is successfully living with stroke in the community. 

Prior to beginning their visits, peers must:

  • undergo a comprehensive screening and application process coordinated by the sponsoring organization (i.e. March of Dimes Canada);

  • complete a comprehensive 16-hour education/training program;

  • complete the hospital’s volunteer application requirements;

  • meet with designated stroke unit champion to tour the unit and discuss the logistics of the visits.

Read the full Peers Fostering Hope: A complement to acute & rehabilitation care presentation.