Burn injury is life changing and can create long-term problems, not only for patients but for family and friends, explains Haig A. Yenikomshian, MD.

“Burn scars are disfiguring, painful, and tight, and can often restrict motion of joints such as in the hands and neck,” he says. “Burn research has focused on improving mortality rates, but we have not explored how burn survivors do after they leave the hospital. We wanted to assess participation rates in peer support groups
and interest level of our patient population. We also wanted to see if there was a gap in delivery of care and whether minority populations at our burn center had more interest in participating in such groups.”

For a study published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research, Dr. Yenikomshian and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of burn survivors who were seen at an outpatient burn clinic within a large safety net hospital in Los Angeles.

The study team included three parts in the assessment:

› Retrospective evaluation by participants of
prior attendance in peer support programs;

› Cross-sectional assessment of current interest
in joining an outpatient peer support group; and

› Patient assessment of future interest and intent
in participating in outpatient peer support.

Patients were queried on past participation in peer support groups and their desire to participate and were provided validated surveys on managing emotions and social interactions since the injury.

Hispanic Patients Expressed Highest Interest in Peer Support

The researchers found that current or previous engagement in peer support was low (4.2%); however, 30.3% of patients not already in support groups expressed interested in participating. Hispanic patients expressed the highest interest (37.0%) in participating in future peer support groups, while Black patients expressed zero interest. Increases in total body surface area burned, the need for surgical intervention, and hospital
length of stay were linked with interest in participating in, or current participation in, a peer support group, based on logistical regression models.

“There was interest in more peer support in our Hispanic population that indicated a need not currently being met,” Dr. Yenikomshian says (Table).

Tailoring Peer Support for Different Minority Groups

In outpatient support groups in a predominately ethnic minority and economically under resourced cohort, the study team noted a disconnect between interest and participation in peer support groups. To help improve burn recovery, the study team suggests developing peer support groups and outpatient resources that are designed specifically with different minority groups in mind.

To tackle challenges faced by different burn survivor groups, peer support offered in multiple languages with distinct resources, such as videos and other mediums, should be made available. “We need to create additional systems of peer support for patients with burn injury, especially for those who do not speak English or who belong to an ethnic minority,” Dr. Yenikomshian says.

The researchers concur that there is a need for more patient- and family-directed research in how to improve
the rehabilitation and reintegration of burn survivors after they leave the hospital. Since this study was limited to a single regional burn center and safety net hospital, the study team would also like to see future research include more non-English speaking people to address disparities, as “an estimated 8.3% of people living in the United States are non-English speaking,” Dr. Yenikomshian and colleagues wrote.