PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM
A strong need for a formal peer support program was reinforced by results from our Physician Wellness Survey, a literature review, and repeated input from committee members and other physicians. We designed our program with input from Dr. Jo Shapiro, founder of a similar program at Harvard. Peer supporters were recruited from our committee or were recommended by clinical department leaders, and we developed a training program with a manual and a support system for the peer supporters.
An expanded program to include litigation support was created as well as a parallel program by and for House Staff with trained residents. Medical Students have a separate peer support program called Ears 4 Peers.
How is a Physician Identified?
After a difficult clinical event or after a malpractice suit or other legal process is begun, a manager, residency director, faculty member or individual physician can call the Peer Support Line or send an email and ask that certain physicians or themselves be contacted. Medical Staff providers are matched via recommendation from peer support team leaders familiar with the peer support team, their specialties and position within the organization. House staff providers are asked if they would prefer to involve a peer supporter in their own department, if available, or a different department.
How is the Physician Contacted?
A designated peer supporter, who will only be given contact information and no clinical details, will contact the physician either by:
- phone or pager
- email with the subject line "Touching base".
Peer supporters identify themselves as a member of the peer support program.
What Happens Next?
The physician and peer supporter can make arrangements to speak on the phone or meet in person. This may be a one time event or periodically as needed. If the physician says no support is needed, they will be offered a basic information and resource sheet but no further contact is required.
What is the Role of the Peer Supporter?
The peer supporters' role is to informally listen, to help guide the physician through the experience, and to provide perspective. They focus on practical coping and can refer to psychotherapists if needed. No notes are kept. Because this program is part of the proceedings of the medical staff of the hospital, responsible for the evaluation and improvement of the quality of care rendered in the hospital, it is legally protected from discovery.
The peer supporters also maintain strict confidentiality (unless the physician is in danger), and report to no one except for statistical data on number of encounters, etc.
Peer supporters are unpaid volunteers who believe that our faculty and trainees deserve to be encouraged during the difficult clinical experiences all physicians face at times in their medical careers.