The experiences of leaders of self-management courses in Queensland: Exploring Health Professional and Peer Leaders' perceptions of working together.
This paper describes the experiences of volunteers who have been trained to deliver the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program course. In Queensland, Australia, Leaders usually work in pairs (a Health Professional Leader (HPL) and a Peer Leader (PL)). Qualitative data were collected to explore volunteers’ experiences as Leaders and their opinions about working together to deliver self-management courses. The data were collected from September 2005 to December 2005. In-depth, semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 34 Leaders (17 PL, 17 HPLs). Thematic analysis revealed two core themes that described Leaders’ perceptions and experiences of working relationships between HPLs and PLs: (i) The Value of Working Together and (2) Relationship Tensions. Both HPLs and PLs believed that working together represented ‘the best of both worlds’ and that the combination of peers and health professionals enhanced the sustainability of the approach. However, a number of tensions were revealed that undermined the development and sustainability of these working relationships. From HPLs’ perspective, the benefits of working with volunteer PLs did not always justify the ‘burden’. Finding the ‘right person’ for the PL role was difficult and a higher value was often placed on the contribution of professionals. The tensions that were most prominent for PLs were grounded in the disparity between their status and that of HPLs, their lack of ownership over courses coupled with lack of a strong voice in the co-Leader relationship, and the absence of connection and engagement among Leaders. Working relationships between HPLs and PLs have potential to deliver positive outcomes for people with chronic disease, but the current study has highlighted the necessity of developing a culture of mutual respect and a system that values both forms of knowledge and expertise (i.e. experiential and professional).