Peer support brings together people who share similar life experiences so they can provide each other with non-judgmental listening and advice related to life, work and other issues.
Peers share insights, coping strategies, information and resources. They also act as sounding boards, providing insight, encouragement, help, hope and recovery for co-workers experiencing challenging situations, distress or big decisions.
Peer support in health care comes in many different forms, both formal and informal. It may be provided in a one-on-one setting or in a group, and may also include mentorship and coaching.
Five facts about peer support
- Most people want to connect with someone who understands them. That understanding often comes from similar experiences and can be reassuring when someone is stressed or uncertain. Peer support is rooted in the belief that everyone can recover from trauma, mental health or addiction issues, mistakes, burnout, depression, and other concerns.
- Peer support starts with an authentic human connection. Peer supporters share their own stories of similar experiences and how they got through them. They walk beside someone — not directing, but listening to and validating their feelings.
- While peer support complements clinical approaches, it is not clinical. Peer supporters do not provide diagnoses, recommend specific treatments or give other medical advice. They help colleagues discover and build on what works for them.
- Peer support improves outcomes. People who use peer support show improved coping and self-management skills, have stronger social networks and tend to be less isolated. Their symptoms are reduced, they use substances at a lower rate, they require shorter and fewer hospitalizations, and they have less need for intensive services.
- Peer support is growing and formalizing. More services are employing peer workers as a part of interdisciplinary care teams, and peer-led services continue to grow.
Available to all physicians, medical learners, and retired physicians, the Wellness Connection is a virtual, safe space where physicians and learners can access a range of peer support resources, including virtual support group sessions. Weekly group sessions are offered at various times, on a range of topics and are led by trained facilitators. The Wellness Connection also offers a safe space for you to share your feelings, emotions and stories of gratitude with your peers. To learn more visit: https://community.cma.ca/en/wellness-connection/
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