More than just a Buddy: Implementation of a peer-support program in a private community neurorehabilitation setting

Miss Pip Willson1, Mrs Susan Petrie1, Mrs Kate Phillips1

1Independent Rehabilitation Services, Ashburton, Australia


The Buddy Program is an opt-in peer-support program offering support to new staff joining the service. New staff are matched with a clinician from a different discipline, who is a resource for informal queries and support. New staff can access 12 hours of paid Buddy support annually. Our aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot Buddy Program.

Staff who had received Buddy support within the previous 12 months were invited to participate in a focus group. Informed consent was gained. 8 participants were recruited, Speech Pathologist (N=1), Physiotherapists (N=2) and Occupational Therapists (N=5). An interview guide of 8 open questions was developed. The focus group was facilitated by an independent clinician. It was recorded, transcribed and thematic analysis was completed.

Three main themes were revealed. The Buddy Program: 1. Compliments clinical supervision, due to informal support from another discipline. 2. Is flexible to clinicians needs, as staff controlled where and when they met, discussion content, how long they accessed support for. 3. Supports clinicians wellbeing in the workplace, as staff were accountable to implementing self-care strategies.

Significance of the findings to Allied Health:
Peer-support programs can be successfully implemented in private community rehabilitation settings. They help clinicians develop healthy and sustainable work practices and reduce the risk of staff burnout. These benefits extend to clients who receive care continuity and quality interventions because their clinicians are prioritising self-care.


Pip Willson is a Senior Occupational Therapist and Deputy Occupational Therapy Team Leader at Independent Rehabilitation Services. Independent Rehabilitation Services provides multi-disciplinary community-based rehabilitation to clients with neurological conditions.