Peer-led recruitment for engaging older veterans living with limb loss

PIF Summary 8 December 2016

Our first Participatory Inquiry Forum of 2016/17 kicked off with Dr Nick Caddick presenting on the peer-led recruitment methods used in “Maintaining Independence: A pilot study into the health and social well-being of older limbless veterans”. This new project is a collaboration between the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, Northumbria University Newcastle, and Blesma, a charity that supports limbless veterans throughout their lives. The project is funded by the Aged Veterans Fund.

Interviews will be conducted to generate experiential narratives of living with limb loss, explore opportunities for improving care for vulnerable older veterans and facilitate planning for future healthcare costs and requirements of older veterans. The research will be guided by three key questions:

  1. How have limbless veterans maintained independence into old age?
  2. What are their physical, psychological, and social needs as they age?
  3. Is social isolation a problem for ageing limbless veterans?

In order to recruit 30 veterans aged 40-90 who have lost a limb, the project used a peer-led recruitment strategy that engaged a Blesma Support Officer (BSO) to act as the peer-recruiter for the study. As a member of Blesma himself and trusted within the organisation, the BSO is able to approach other members to tell them about the research and gauge interest; he has been highly successful in recruiting participants so far.

Delving into the literature on peer-led recruitment, Nick found two potentially relevant themes:

  • Literature around engaging ‘hard-to-reach’ populations using the quantitative approach of respondent-driven sampling, which employs statistical adjustments to overcome sampling bias (Mosher et al., 2015).
  • Literature around engaging ‘hard-to-reach men’ in healthcare promotion interventions, for example Carroll et al. (2014) and Pringle et al. (2014).

These commonly used strategies will be incorporated into the literature review Nick is currently working on, which will also address the challenges of engaging ‘hard-to-reach’ groups, the dearth of qualitative literature on peer-led recruitment, and critical reflections on the ethical considerations.

The open question and answer session that followed included discussions on the benefits of trust, familiarity and shared experience in the recruitment process; the risk of coercion and how the research is communicated to potential participants; managing expectations of participants in terms of how support may change for others in the future; and the possibilities for also involving peer recruiters in data collection.

Please contact with any questions.

Author: annadadswell

As a Research Fellow in Social Work and Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University, I manage the Participatory Research Blog. Please feel free to contact me with questions and suggestions at

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