Over the last six months, I’ve spent a great deal of time writing about peer influence and the power of peer advisory groups, mostly pertaining to CEOs and business executives. About a month ago, I read a terrific book called Rebounders, which I referenced in a recent blog post. I purposely didn’t write about what for me was the most meaningful and educational part of the book because I felt it deserved its own specific blog entry. I can’t think of a better time to post it than during this Memorial Day weekend.
Author Rick Newman told the story of Tammy Duckworth, possibly the ultimate rebounder. Tammy is an Iraq War veteran – an Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs and injured an arm after her helicopter was shot down in 2004. By 2008, Tammy was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention and today continues to serve her country as a member of the Illinois National Guard and by making her second bid to be elected to the United States Congress. (In 2006, she was only narrowly defeated in her first ever run for public office). While Tammy’s story is compelling and inspiring, I was also incredibly impressed with the Peer Visitor Program at Walter Reed Army Hospital that Newman describes in the book – arguably one of the key resources that helped Tammy and so many other veterans cope with their new circumstances. I never knew there was such a program. While it makes perfect sense, I felt being introduced to this effort through Newman’s book was the greatest gift I received from reading it.
While the operations of Walter Reed Hospital have since been moved to Bethesda, MD; peer visitor programs, there and across the country, remain an important part of helping our wounded service men and women, as well as other amputees, lead productive lives. One such program is led by the Amputee Coalition, who this weekend is remembering the sacrifices of those who have served our country. According to its web site:
“No one is potentially in a better position to understand about living life with an amputation or supporting a person with limb loss/difference than someone who has been there. The Amputee Coalition’s Peer Visitor Program was established on this important premise. An experienced, well-trained peer can offer encouragement and information from a place, and at a pace, that an overwhelmed individual can better absorb.
“To become an Amputee Coalition certified peer visitor, a person with limb loss or difference or a family member must pass a Peer Visitor Training Seminar. They must have adjusted well to their loss and be celebrating a full life, however they choose to live it. Through courses offered across the country, peer visitors learn what it means to be a genuinely positive force as a visitor. They learn what the role encompasses, what the inherent limitations are, how to recognize the elements of recovery and how to respond with the most helpful interventions during the different phases of emotional adjustment. Based on principles of adult learning, the full-day course incorporates a variety of highly interactive elements, including role-play, games, brainstorming and case studies. The course focuses on rehearsing peer visitation skills in a number of situations and giving and receiving feedback. Certified peer visitors are required to maintain an active Amputee Coalition membership and to regularly update their certification through online recertification training.
“Visits by an Amputee Coalition certified peer visitor may be conducted in person, by phone and sometimes even by e-mail. The important thing is to best meet the needs of the individual being visited in a timely way. While face-to-face meetings are often considered ideal, some prefer the anonymity, convenience or control that comes with a phone call or an e-mail. Also, many individuals live in remote, unpopulated areas where there are few, if any, peer support opportunities.”
The National Peer Network includes nearly 300 support groups, more than 1,000 trained peer visitors (since 2001), and a Parent Peer Visitor program designed to meet the unique needs of the parents of children who’ve suffered limb loss/difference. To learn more about the program, you can visit the web page that describes the National Peer Network (NPN) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of us at Executive Street salute the Amputee Coalition’s National Peer Network as well as other such peer-to-peer initiatives that do so much to make a difference in people’s lives!