Last year, the Pennsylvania Hospital Care for the Care Provider Committee conducted an assessment of work-related stress with the goal of developing a second tier of the Care for the Care Provider program.  Over 500 responses were collected from 25 unique departments throughout the hospital, and the results confirmed that healthcare workers’ exposure to high-stress clinical environments can have a significant impact on their personal and professional lives. Many responses highlighted the need for formal support structures to help individuals and teams cope during intense circumstances. Overwhelmingly, those responding to the survey indicated that the most valuable program that could be implemented to help staff function after encountering work-related stressors would be a system focused on peer support.

In response to the survey results, the Care for the Care Provider Committee held focused discussions with key stakeholders, ultimately agreeing to move forward with the development of a formal peer-supporter program. The committee sponsored the inaugural gathering of the inter-professional PAH Peer Supporter team. The team participated in an all-day, intensive training retreat led by Medically Induced Trauma Support Services (MITSS), and organization whose mission is centered on “supporting healing” and “restoring hope.” MITSS sent a team of three peer-support facilitation experts, including Linda Kenney, the president and executive director of MITSS. Over 50 participants learned about “second victim phenomenon” – the sense of trauma, guilt, and failure that a healthcare provider may experience after an adverse patient outcome or other negative event – and how to handle the emotional aftermath, prevent future errors, and support colleagues in distress.

They also practiced active listening skills and engaged in a robust conversation centered on the potential difficulties of employing an effective peer support team in the healthcare setting. Over the next few months, the Peer Supporter team will be drawing from their training to develop an implementation structure. The peer-support program is set to be available to all staff by early 2018.

Interested in learning more? Contact Florence Vanek, MSN, RN, at florence.vanek@uphs.upenn.edu, or nurse manager Lisa Triantos, MSN, RN, CEN, NE-BC at lisa.triantos@uphs.upenn.edu.

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