CONTEXT Despite movement towards active patient involvement in the education of health professionals, explorations of the experiences of patient-educators beyond descriptive re-search are limited. OBJECTIVES The purpose of this study was to identify the positive and negative factors that contributed to the experiences of patient-edu-cators in a health mentors programme for health professional students at a Canadian university. METHODS Semi-structured focus group dis-cussions and individual interviews were used to elicit the experiences of 30 patient-educators with chronic conditions or disabilities, of the 151 involved in the programme. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes in the participants' experiences. RESULTS Study participants spoke of the po-tential challenges and benefits of sharing their experiences. The main challenge involved in sharing their experiences was potential vulnera-bility should students not appreciate what was shared. The main benefits were personal learning and making valued contributions. Two factors influenced the participants' sense of whether the potential benefits outweighed the chal-lenges of personal sharing in the programme: monitoring disclosure, and perceived student learn-ing. Participants used the strategy of monitoring their disclosure to limit how much personal information they shared with students. The benefits of participating in the programme outweighed the potential challenges when stu-dents were seen to embrace the intended mes-sages of the patient-educators. CONCLUSIONS The results of this study pro-vide a conceptual framework that can be used to better prepare patient-educators and stu-dents for more reciprocal learning interaction.
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