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Peer support: healthcare professionals supporting each other after adverse medical events


The patient safety movement in healthcare is beginning to openly acknowledge the need to support the human side of adverse medical events in conjunction with evidence-based improvement initiatives. While medical literature has sporadically reported on the emotional impact of adverse events on healthcare professionals, little has been documented on the implementation of support services following these events. This article describes an adverse medical event where open communication and apology catalysed the development and implementation of a structured peer support service for care providers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital following adverse events. The Peer Support Service bypasses the stigmas that limit the utilisation of formal support services and offers care providers a safe environment to share the emotional impact of adverse events while serving as a foundation for open communication and a renewal of compassion in the workplace. As the breadth of stressors impacting healthcare professionals is revealed, the Peer Support Service is being recognised as a vital hospital-wide service. It also appears to offer an important leap forward in the critical areas of patient safety and quality of care.

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