How to Find a Peer Support Group in Medicine

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Liz Ferron, MSW, LICSW

Peer Support Group Key for Medical Practitioners

Peer Support Group

Sometimes a peer is the only one who can understand the unique world of healthcare.  In a time where they are busier than ever with adapting to changes and increased administrative tasks, informal time to chat with one another seems to be disappearing. One avenue to ensure a practitioner maintains support from colleagues is to join a peer support group.

In October 2000 Jennifer Bush from Family Practice Management, the on-line magazine of AAFP, interviewed William Zeckhausen, DMin, a pastoral counselor and facilitator of physician support groups in New Hampshire.

In the interview Dr. Zeckhausen stated, “Physicians attend (groups) not because they're impaired and trying to resolve some pathology, but rather because they see the group as a personal and professional resource to help their functioning as physicians and as people.”

Dr. Zeckhausen goes on to say the need for such groups is great. “I think most physicians have issues to deal with, but they haven't found a place or choose not to share or get help,” he says. “I often wonder how they survive. With managed care and the escalating number of lawsuits, their already stressful profession is more stressful than ever.”

He acknowledged finding such a group may be a challenge for physicians, and as a solution he suggests physicians look for four to eight peers who would be interested in meeting regularly.  He also advocated for finding a professional facilitator to help provide support and direction.

That being said, there are peer support programs for medical practitioners developing across the country, including at Stanford in California and Harvard in Connecticut.

The longest standing program was developed at Brigham and Young Hospital in Massachusetts. In this program, a variety of support services are offered to physicians, including peer support.  In an article published in Quality and Safety in Healthcare 2008; 17: 249-252. One of the program’s founders Dr. Rick Van Pelt stated, “peer support services bypass the stigmas that limit the utilization of formal support services.”

A trend that is likely to continue, peer support in healthcare is proving valuable to medical practitioners and in some cases, patients and their family members as well. According to Van Pelt, peer support “appears to offer an important leap forward in the critical areas of patient safety and quality of care.”

We Can Help

For more information and to get connected with a Peer Support Group or to learn more about the benefits of Peer Coaching, give us a call to learn how you can get started with your peer coach. Call 877.731.3949 or access through your VITAL WorkLife App to speak with one of our consultants.

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Contact us online to learn how our Physician Well Being resources can support your physicians and providers. 

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