Peer support for doctors after adverse events

November 1, 2006

Physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston now have a place to turn to help cope with the emotions they feel after a medical error occurs. The goal of the BWH Peer Support Team is to help physicians realize that once an adverse event is resolved and the patient is stabilized, the doctor can take some time to think about his own reactions.

Physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston now have a place to turn to help cope with the emotions they feel after a medical error occurs. The goal of the BWH Peer Support Team is to help physicians realize that once an adverse event is resolved and the patient is stabilized, the doctor can take some time to think about his own reactions.

The peer support team is being piloted with operating room professionals and may be expanded to other areas of the hospital. It involves more than 20 BWH health professionals, who are involved in one-on-one and group counseling. While peer support discussions are not protected from legal discovery, they aren't documented and are kept separate from the hospital's quality improvement process.

The program is helping to dispel the image that physicians need to "go-it alone" and be "superhuman," when something goes wrong, reported American Medical News (9/11/2006). Peer review offers a place where physicians can share with each other similar experiences without the stigma of mental health counseling.