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You are here: Home / News / 2012 News / Peer Connect Program trains survivors to “guide” patients and fellow survivors

Peer Connect Program trains survivors to “guide” patients and fellow survivors

by Mary Ruth last modified Nov 06, 2012 02:04 PM
Peer Connect provides training for cancer survivors who wish to "give back" by talking with or being a buddy to another patient or survivor. Peer Connect meets a need for more formalized training for the "guides" or peer counselors by teaching effective communication skills and strategies based on Motivational Interviewing (MI), which focuses on listening and meeting the needs of the recipient rather than giving advice or telling people what to do.

The Peer Connect program is a collaborative effort of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program – Carolina Well- and Cornucopia Cancer Support Center. The team at UNC developed the DVD training program and partnered with Cornucopia to match trained Guides with partners seeking services from Cornucopia.

Bert Davis
Bert Davis

The guides celebrated their training graduation on August 18th. Bert Davis of Chapel Hill is an eight-year survivor of leukemia. Bert moved to Chapel Hill following her diagnosis to be closer to her son, then a medical student at UNC School of Medicine.

She became a guide because “ I wanted to help other people going through the same thing. I felt I would be an ideal person to help because of my cancer experience.

“It’s well worth it to try the program. I learned to become a better listener. I don’t have all the answers, but I listen. Patients want someone to listen. The best part about being a guide is being available to help someone. The training was very helpful. I couldn’t serve as a guide without it. “

Dr. Roy McJilton
Dr. Roy McJilton

Dr. Roy McJilton, is a retired ENT physician whose wife died of lung cancer two years ago. He works with caregivers.

He cites his experience as a caregiver as the reason for becoming a guide. “ It’s important to get across to caregivers the crucial role they play. There’s a special connection between caregivers. Working with other caregivers gives me the satisfying feeling that I have really made a difference.

“The training helped me learn new skills. Knowing when to ask questions and when just to let the other person talk. I would encourage anyone to take part in this program. Everyone has something to contribute.”

Dr. Marlyn Allicock, research assistant professor of nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and faculty member with the Peer Connect Program, describes the program:

    Peer Connect Guides and staff: From L-R, on the front row: Bert Davis, Mary Kaplan, Norm Kaplan, Roy McJilton, La-Shell Johnson (UNC Staff), and Marlyn Allicock (UNC Staff). From L-R on the back row: Mike MacDonald, Rosie Smith (Cornucopia House Staff), Richard Kingsley, Glenna Maynus, and Kitty Kisslo.

How did Peer Connect begin? Where did the idea come from?

Peer Connect is a support program developed as part of UNC Chapel Hill’s UNC-LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence, led by Dr. Marci Campbell, to help survivors cope with their cancer diagnosis, treatment, and life after treatment. We are fortunate that early diagnosis and treatment has led to a growing population of cancer survivors who are looking for information and support. Peer Connect has been designed to meet these needs.

How many graduates are there? This is the second training you have held?

We have 15 active volunteers who have been matched with Partners. We have previously trained 25 volunteers as part of an earlier pilot program with Cornucopia helped us design the current DVD-based training program.

How is it different from other cancer “buddy” programs?

The premise of the program is patient centeredness: listening and responding and avoiding unsolicited advice. The Guides receive an extensive two-day training plus monthly on-going training for six months. This is one of a few support programs that have been evaluated and offer extensive training.

What is most important for guides to know as they begin their work?

A hallmark of the program is training Guides to focus on their Partners; to listen to their concerns, provide understanding and emotional and informational support in order to help the other person on their cancer journey.

What qualifications should a potential volunteer have?

Volunteer Guides who wish to be a buddy should be at least one year post treatment and willing to commit six months to the program.

Each guide receives training that teaches active listening skills for providing support and encouragement. Monthly sessions offer a time for guides to practice, learn more skills and support each other.

For more information about Peer Connect or to become a volunteer, please call (919) 401-9333 or visit indicating that a link will open an external site.

Carolina Well is part of UNC Lineberger’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, a multidisciplinary program dedicated to helping patients and their caregivers with cancer treatment, recovery and survivorship.

Cornucopia Cancer Support Center is a place where anyone touched by cancer can find support and resources to live life to the fullest.

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