PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM
Difficult clinical events happen to all clinicians at some point in their careers. These events can lead to a variety of negative emotional consequences, including a sense of isolation, self-doubt, depression, rumination, and anxiety. It is important that doctors don’t feel alone under these circumstances.
Our Peer Support Program was created to address this need. Volunteer trained physicians, from a variety of departments and levels of experience, are available to lend a friendly ear and provide support during this difficult time. Conversations are legally protected and completely confidential, unless there is an issue of personal safety. Usually these conversations occur over the phone, but can also be held in person. We are here for you!
How is a Physician Identified?
After a known difficult clinical event, as a matter of routine, all involved physicians will be contacted. In addition, concerned colleagues or supervisors can ask that a physician be contacted, and physicians can refer themselves.
How is the Physician Contacted?
Physicians and peer supporters are matched by their hospital/organization, medicine vs. surgery, their position within the organization, and not from their own department. We have separate trained groups of supporters from within the medical staff, and also residents, fellows and UHA members. Each can address their group’s unique needs.
A designated peer supporter, who will only be given contact information and no clinical details, will contact the physician either by email or text 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 is usually a one time event or with an occasional follow-up. All contacted physicians are offered a basic information and resource sheet. Physicians can decide to participate or not - it is not a requirement and completely up to them.
Is this Truly Confidential?
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. No details about the event are provided to the supporter, and no notes are kept. The involved physician can decide to discuss aspects of the event, or not.
The peer supporters also maintain strict confidentiality (unless there are safety concerns about the physician). The only people who will know that a conversation took place are the involved doctor, the peer supporter and the program director, who only reports out cumulative statistical data re: number of encounters, etc.
What is the Role of the Peer Supporter?
The role of the supporter is to help a clinician cope by listening, offering perspective, emphasizing self-care and providing resources. We also provide litigation support. Psych back-up is available as needed.
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.
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. Dr. Dana Welle conceived and orchestrated the creation of 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. Please address inquiries about the program to the present director, Dr. Harise Stein.