Peer Support Workers in Health: A Qualitative Metasynthesis of Their Experiences

Jennifer MacLellan, Julian Surey, Ibrahim Abubakar, Helen R Stagg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Peer support models, where an individual has a specific illness or lifestyle experience and supports others experiencing similar challenges, have frequently been used in different fields of healthcare to successfully engage hard-to-reach groups. Despite recognition of their value, the impact of these roles on the peer has not been systematically assessed. By synthesising the qualitative literature we sought to review such an impact, providing a foundation for designing future clinical peer models.

METHODS: Systematic review and qualitative metasynthesis of studies found in Medline, CINAHL or Scopus documenting peer worker experiences.

RESULTS: 1,528 papers were found, with 34 meeting the criteria of this study. Findings were synthesised to reveal core constructs of reframing identity through reciprocal relations and the therapeutic use of self, enhancing responsibility.

CONCLUSIONS: The ability of the Peer Support Worker to actively engage with other marginalised or excluded individuals based on their unique insight into their own experience supports a therapeutic model of care based on appropriately sharing their story. Our findings have key implications for maximising the effectiveness of Peer Support Workers and in contributing their perspective to the development of a therapeutic model of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0141122
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2015


  • Delivery of Health Care/methods
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Peer Group
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Help Groups/standards


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