Offering Peer Support to Clinicians/Staff Involved in Adverse Events

Fifteen Massachusetts hospitals and outpatient practices have joined a pilot program aimed at helping clinicians and staff members who have been involved in an event that harmed a patient. The Betsy Lehman Center program provides the resources necessary for each institution to build its own peer support network.
Last December, MHA put out a call seeking five hospital volunteers for the pilot. Fifteen groups eventually signed up. They are: Atrius Health, Baystate Health, Boston Medical Center, Cooley Dickinson Health Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Emerson Hospital, Lowell General Hospital/Circle Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, MelroseWakefield Healthcare, MetroWest Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, North Shore Medical Center, South Shore Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital/Southcoast Health, and Tufts Medical Center.
Medical errors and other unexpected patient outcomes are obviously traumatizing for patients and families, but clinicians and staff also may suffer emotional or physical distress, believing they have failed their patients as they second guess their own clinical competence. Some even decide to leave their positions or professions. Caregivers are often reluctant to reach out for help following an incident for fear of being stigmatized or of compromising collegial relationships.
The Betsy Lehman Center’s peer support work also extends to patients and family members affected by adverse medical outcomes. In the coming weeks, the Center will begin its outreach efforts to connect with individuals in the state who have experienced medical harm and are interested in serving as a network of support for others.