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The Mentor Inventors
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North Versailles/Harmar/Five Points
613 East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard
The Event
Location & Address
Holiday Inn Monroeville, 2750 Mosside Boulevard, Monroeville, PA 15146
Patient mentoring has been shown to have a positive impact on patient compliance, survival and emotional well-being. There are several mentoring programs that have been created for use with dialysis patients in various parts of the country. Our team leader, Julie Hopkins, became aware of one of these during her tenure on the ESRD Network 4 Rehabilitation Committee. Many of the members of the committee were enthusiastic about the idea of spreading such a program to other areas of the state and region. The Pittsburgh region has many challenges that prevent or discourage patients from participating in support groups; the transportation infrastructure is lacking; many of the areas around Pittsburgh are extremely rural, which creates time AND transportation constraints; and many patients are just not comfortable in a group setting. They need support from their peers, but in a way that is constructive and caring. They need, in short, a sort of “roving support group” in which they can receive the support they need over the phone, or with individual face-to-face encounters. Unfortunately, the existing program discussed at the committee meeting was not willing to share their materials or training with others in the region, so Ms. Hopkins, a social worker who has been employed with DCI for the past 9 years, toyed with the idea of “reinventing the wheel” and starting a small mentoring program of her own. It seemed like a pretty big challenge, so the idea was placed on a back burner for about a year. What changed was the admission of a new patient to the North Versailles, Pennsylvania facility. Her name was Sandra, and she expressed frustration at the lack of support offered to patients by patients. She herself had served as a peer mentor for a local social service agency, and she was excited when Ms. Hopkins mentioned the possibility of creating something similar for the patients in North Versailles. After much research, writing, and planning, the first mentor training session was held with 3 patients from the North Versailles unit in November of 2010. Split into three 2-hour sessions, the trainings taught about communication skills, boundaries, confidentiality, and listening skills, among other things. The first group of graduates was very eager to get started with mentoring. Sandra was the first patient to receive a mentor, and the relationship went well. Encouraged by the reception, Ms. Hopkins went on to do a second training in her Harmar Village unit, which began in January, 2011. This time, she trained three patients and one caregiver. It was a little more difficult to match this group of patients with people willing to be mentored; the Harmar Village facility serves a large number of nursing home patients, who aren’t in the best position to receive mentor assistance. This led back to Ms. Hopkins’ initial frustration with the program being so localized; she had hoped for a program in which patients could be matched with others who shared similar characteristics and interests in the region, without the limitation of keeping the matches within one clinic—or even one company. While in the midst of the second training, she saw the announcement for the DCI “40 Acts of Service” and wondered if this might be the opportunity she had sought to bring mentoring to the ESRD population in the Pittsburgh region. Taking a chance, she submitted an application to hold a one-day training for patients and renal professionals to explain the virtues of mentoring, and share her ideas for trainings within other clinics. To do this properly, she knew she needed some help from the larger renal community, so she partnered with the Western PA Kidney Support Groups, led by renal patients Jack Silverstein and Robb Wilson. Also involved was Diana Headlee-Bell from the Renal Support Network, and Dean Morris, Patient Services Director for Network 4, now part of The Renal Network. To her great joy, the application was approved, and the planning began. It was determined that the “lure” for professionals to attend would be CEs, so Ms. Hopkins submitted applications for both social workers and patient care technicians to receive credit for the training. She asked fellow social workers from the local CNSW chapter to reach out to patients they felt would make good mentors and invite them to the training. The Renal Network helped to spread the word, and a total of 74 people signed up to attend the seminar, which was held on June 26, 2011 in Monroeville. The attendees represented several clinics in the Pittsburgh region. Professionals stayed for the entire day, and the morning session was devoted to discussion of what benefits mentoring could bring to patients and professionals alike; a multidisciplinary panel discussion of mentoring with a nephrologist, nurse, dietitian, social worker and patient; and an overview of the features a training should provide. ESRD patients and caregivers joined the group for lunch and an afternoon packed with activities designed to sharpen communication skills, develop insight and maintain boundaries—all while having fun in a cooperative atmosphere! The training was well-rated, and patients and staff reported having learned a great deal while enjoying a day in one another’s company, free of the usual time pressures associated with dialyzing. There is talk of carrying on in a larger way, with a central database of mentors available to help any patients in the area who are struggling to cope with the challenges of ESRD. Our group is looking forward to further community collaborations, all in the name of helping to support our patients! We are very grateful to DCI for giving us the opportunity to share this important message with others, and for supporting what we ultimately decided to call “Positive Patient Power!”
Date & Time
June 26, 2011
For More Information
Julie Hopkins

Full details and program guidelines are posted on www.dciinc.org and the DCI intranet. Acts of Service must be coordinated by DCI employees. All DCI employees are welcome to participate. * Award money received from winning the online competition for "Best Act of Service" is to be used for DCI clinic educational purposes. For example: Paying for staff education courses, funding Pre-ESRD courses, or to purchase educational items to be used in the clinic.

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