After critical illness, patients are often left with impairments in physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Peer support interventions have been implemented internationally to ameliorate these issues.


To explore what patients believed to be the key mechanisms of effectiveness of peer support programs implemented during critical care recovery.


In a secondary analysis of an international qualitative data set, 66 telephone interviews with patients were undertaken across 14 sites in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to understand the effect of peer support during recovery from critical illness. Prevalent themes were documented with framework analysis.


Most patients who had been involved in peer support programs reported benefit. Patients described 3 primary mechanisms: (1) sharing experiences, (2) care debriefing, and (3) altruism.


Peer support is a relatively simple intervention that could be implemented to support patients during recovery from critical illness. However, more research is required into how these programs can be implemented in a safe and sustainable way in clinical practice.

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