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The psychological well-being of renal peer support volunteers


Gillian Brunier, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Room E206B, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5. E-mail:


The psychological well-being of renal peer support volunteers

Aim of the study. The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics of renal peer support volunteers (PSVs) and explore the effects on their psychological well-being from helping others.

Background. Dialysis patients, transplant patients and family members who become renal PSVs receive special training in empathy, listening, self-awareness and problem solving. The trained renal PSVs offer a unique service to others struggling to learn to live with renal failure because they have faced the same struggles.

Methods. This exploratory study utilized a longitudinal design. The first time for data collection was immediately after the volunteers had completed a Kidney Foundation of Canada training programme. Subsequent interviews were at time intervals of 4, 8 and 12 months after the first interview. Information on the psychological well-being of the volunteers was collected at each interview in two different ways: the 38-item Mental Health Inventory (MHI) and open-ended questions.

Findings. Thirty-one PSVs completed all four interviews. The average age of the volunteers was 45 years and almost half had a university level of education. They identified themselves as belonging to 12 different ethno-cultural groups. Analysis of the quantitative data from the MHI indicated that the mental health of the PSVs stayed remarkably stable over time. Analysis of the qualitative data from the open-ended questions revealed four major themes which, taken together, showed notable increases in personal growth and well-being for the PSVs over time.

Conclusion. After participating in a training programme, renal PSVs maintained, and possibly improved, their own well-being by helping others with chronic renal failure.