S72: From Invisible to Integral: The practical challenges of integrating peer workers into clinical services.

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By September 26, 2017 No Comments

Authors: Louisa Dent Pearce

Year: 2017

Event: 2017 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Workforce,Change, Innovation, Reform,Lived Experience, Recovery

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

Abstract: In the last two decades, progress made in workplace policy and national health standards has led to the increasing presence of peer workers and consumer consultants in clinical settings. Gradually the role has evolved from an invisible volunteer who reviewed brochures, to an integral member of a professional, multidisciplinary team.

This paper looks at the practical challenges of this culture change, comparing experiences in both public and private mental health settings: firstly, the integration of peer workers into established multidisciplinary teams within a public health setting; and secondly, the integration of consumer consultants in a private hospital setting where the role has expanded to include peer counselling, facilitation of groups, staff training, advocacy and policy review.

Both settings have provided rich learning opportunities for peers and their colleagues. Along with their daily tasks, peer workers have faced the challenges of addressing stigma in the workplace, strengthening their professional status, redefining the meaning of “expertise”, addressing power imbalances in hierarchical organisations, and confronting personal issues of transitioning from consumer to colleague.

Above all, these learnings emphasise the cultural support that is necessary to build effective partnerships within multidisciplinary teams, and to ensure that policies of consumer engagement are translated into practice.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Audiences will gain insight into the differences between policy and practice, the potential challenges and benefits of integrating peers into clinical workforces, and practical ideas about how to best support peers in these settings.

Learning Objective 2: The value and importance of peers in the workforce has now been embedded in policies and national health standards and the peer workforce is growing; the next step is for the mental health sector to be monitoring how these policies translate into practice and what issues are arising for these peer practitioners.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Safety and Quality Improvement Guide Standard 2: Partnering with Consumers (October 2012). Sydney. ACSQHC, 2012.
Dr Sharon Lawn, BA, DipEd, MSW, PhD, Anne Smith & Kelly Hunter. Mental health peer support for hospital avoidance and early discharge: An Australian example of consumer driven and operated service;Journal of Mental Health, 2008 Volumn 17 –issue 5

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