NKF Peers Mentoring Program: An Overview and Lessons Learned

By Kelli Collins, MSW, LICSW, Senior Director of Patient Services, National Kidney Foundation, New York, NY

THE JOURNAL OF NEPHROLOGY SOCIAL WORK – VOLUME 40, ISSUE 2 (2016)

Program Overview

The NKF Peers program matches mentors and mentees one-to-one through a toll-free phone system. Interested mentees are matched with a trained mentor who has experienced a similar situation with kidney disease. Interactions vary in length per call and duration over time. NKF matches and tracks pairs via InquisitHealth’s 1-to-1 Mentoring Platform (www.inquisithealth.com). This platform automatically provides toll-free phone numbers to mentors once they have accepted a new mentee match. The platform then tracks frequency and length of calls between pairs and automatically sends emails to seek feedback on the call from mentors and mentees once a call is completed.

How the System Works

To connect to each other, mentors are given a toll-free telephone number generated by the 1-to-1 Mentoring Platform (www.inquisithealth.com) to connect to their mentees. Neither party discloses their personal phone number or incurs long-distance charges.

The telephone system allows participants to talk directly with each other, leave voicemail messages, block calls at certain hours, and initiate reminder calls, if needed. Telephone services are provided free-of-charge by NKF.

During the interview and assessment of interested mentees, the oversight clinician documents their preferred availability. The oversight clinician chooses an appropriate mentor in InquisitHealth’s 1-to-1 Mentoring Platform and an automatic email will go to the chosen mentor to ask if they are interested and available at the given times to talk with the new mentee. Once a mentor accepts the match, they are given a unique toll-free number and are able to call the mentee at any of the available times. Mentors always initiate contact with mentees. Times zones are always taken into account.

Mentors also have access to a “dashboard” with basic information on their mentees, as well as the toll-free number and available times. While mentees can call the toll-free number back if they miss a call, they will not be able to connect directly with their mentors, as it will not ring the mentor’s phone. However, the mentors will be alerted that mentees tried to call them, and mentees are able to leave messages for their mentors.

Technology

Initially, NKF Peers utilized a toll-free phone provider that allowed NKF to buy as many toll-free numbers as needed and manually route calls according to matches. While this system initially met the needs of the program, as the program grew it became increasingly time consuming to manually set up call routing and track matches. In April 2015, NKF moved to a new online peer management platform through InquisitHealth. This platform allows the oversight clinician to match and track pairs throughout their participation in the program. The system also automatically provides a toll-free number for each mentor/mentee pairing. Enhanced technology has greatly improved the ability of the NKF oversight clinician to manage large numbers of pairs in varying stages of the mentoring process. As any successful program grows, technology will be important to support growth. InquisitHealth continues to be an ideal partner in being open to tailoring the platform, based on the program’s evolving needs over time. However, despite the benefits and necessity of technology, participants also highly value the direct person-to-person contact by phone. This is true both of the mentor/mentee relationship, as well as the oversight clinician/mentor and mentee relationships.

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