Physicians face unique challenges, and support from colleagues can have a positive impact on wellbeing and workplace experiences. Even clinicians with robust personal support networks stand to benefit tremendously from sharing their experiences with peers who have been in a similar situation and can truly understand and empathize with their unique experiences. Often physicians wish they had someone to talk to, but it can be hard to connect with your peers. A few weeks ago, we invited you to participate in a survey about your need for peer support connections. The results are in and 71% of respondents said that they would have reached out to a peer supporter last year if there had been somewhere to go.
The BC Physician Health Program (PHP) and Joint Collaborative Committees (JCCs) launched the Physician Peer Support Initiative in 2022. The Victoria and South Island Divisions of Family Practice, the South Island Medical Staff Association, and the Saanich Peninsula Physicians Society have partnered to prototype this new initiative which launched on February 6, 2023. Seven local physicians have received provincial training and our pilot team receives support from the PHP and JCCs while we design a local peer support program tailored to our needs. We are one of 5 prototype sites in the province.
Our Peer Support program offers confidential, short-term, non-clinical emotional support to colleagues by trained physician peer supporters in a one-on-one setting. Local peer supporters are now available to listen to their colleagues and help guide through next steps. To reach out to a peer supporter, just fill out a confidential referral form. This program is available to ALL physicians in the South Island area, regardless of affiliation or specialty.
There are many reasons why a physician may seek peer support, such as dealing with a patient/college complaint, workplace interpersonal conflict or adverse clinical event, managing work-life balance, burnout/moral injury, or any other situation where you need to speak with someone who understands. Studies have shown that peer support for physicians can be effective in contributing to a culture where physicians feel more comfortable seeking and offering help. People who use peer support show improved coping and self-management skills, have stronger social networks, reduced isolation, and a reduced need for intensive services.
You can learn more about our peer support program and read through some Frequently Asked Questions on our website. You can also contact the program administrators by emailing PeerSupport@southislandmsa.ca. Although our program is hosted by the MSA website, you do not need to be a member of the MSA to access peer support. It is available to all physicians in our community!
The launch of the Peer Support Initiative is in part thanks to funding from the JCCs, as well as funding from the $1 million provided over four years by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), Scotiabank and MD Financial Management Inc’s Physician Wellness+ Initiative.