Physician Peer Support Program
Difficult events happen to all physicians at some point in their careers. Stressful events include involvement in a difficult event, caring for trauma victims, facing the illness/ death of a colleague, or confronting potential litigation. 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 physicians don’t feel alone under these circumstances. Yet, research shows physicians generally do not acknowledge or openly discuss their personal reactions to these events. If not attended to, these emotional reactions can lead to burnout and further distress. Studies have shown that talking to a trained peer facilitates coping and resilience after an adverse event. In response to this research, in 2018 the SHCP Physician Peer Support Program was created.
What are physicians saying about peer support programs?
“Just having someone neutral check in specifically about my well-being was comforting. I felt incredibly supported and it was nice that there were not secondary motives behind the support (i.e. data gathering about the incident, etc.).”
“Thank you for taking time to talk to me, it made things much clearer. Thank you also for the additional resources you sent so promptly.”
“Great addition for our physicians, as we often feel the need to sort through these issues alone.”
What does the peer supporter know about the situation?
The peer supporter only knows the physician’s name and contact email and/or phone number. They know nothing about the clinical details. The peer supporter is concerned about your well-being, not the details of the event.
Who are the peer supporters?
Peer supporters are unpaid volunteer physicians who are nominated by peers and participate in an intensive training. Peer supporters are your SHCP colleagues. Peer supporters believe that our physicians deserve to be encouraged during the difficult experiences that physicians face at times in their medical careers.
How do you get connected with a peer supporter?
The goal of the peer support program is to reach out to every physician who is exposed to a major adverse event. After a known difficult clinical event, as a matter of routine, all involved physicians will be contacted. To refer a provider, or to self-refer, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207.482.7844 The program coordinator will match the physician with a peer supporter within 24 hours. For weekend referrals, the match will be made within 48 hours. Strict confidentiality is maintained.
How does the process work?
- Connection is established through the program coordinator.
- Peer supporter reaches out directly
- Outreach is an invitation. If peer does not want to talk, supporter expresses understanding and lets them know peer support is available if they want it in the future. Supporter asks permission to email the peer information regarding coping strategies and further resources.
- If peer does want to talk, an in-person meeting or phone call is scheduled by supporter and peer.
- A one-time peer support meeting is held. Occasionally there is follow-up.
What do we talk about during the 1:1 meeting?
- A peer supporter focuses on empathetic, non-judgmental listening
- Peer support is about sharing experiences and providing perspective
- A peer supporter will reinforce the importance of self-care and coping skills
- A peer supporter will share resource and referral information
- A peer supporter maintains strict confidentiality (unless there are safety concerns about the physician).
- The only people who will know that a conversation took place are the involved physician, the peer supporter and the program coordinator.