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Peer support: a personal, collegial and organisational wellbeing approach

21 Sep 2021

Professor Jo Shapiro will be speaking at the President’s Conference on 6-7 October 2021. In this blog Professor Shapiro previews her talk about the value of peer support and its impact on wellbeing.

Professor Jo Shapiro
Professor of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Harvard Medical School Director, Center for Professionalism and Peer Support, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

I am honored to be a part of the upcoming Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow President’s Conference entitled Time to Heal: Recovery and Renewal. I’ll be speaking on Peer Support.  I am an associate professor in the Harvard Medical School Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. My current roles include: Consultant for the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Anesthesia, Pain and Critical Care and Principal Faculty for the Center for Medical Simulation in Boston.

In 2008, I founded the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Professionalism and Peer Support where I served as the director for over ten years. We developed programs focused on enhancing a culture of trust and respect and improving clinician wellbeing. A key initiative was our peer support program. Based on our and others’ research, we knew that when physicians and surgeons face acute and chronic workplace stressors, they most want support from colleagues because we have all “been there” and have a unique understanding of such stressors. Peer Support meets such needs by training physicians and surgeons (rather than mental health providers) to reach out and offer support. In addition to providing support, the peer supporters also destigmatise and facilitate referral to further resources such as mental health treatment should the peer desire this. Since that time, I have helped dozens of national and international healthcare organisations develop peer support programs.

Given the enormous challenges we have faced as healthcare providers, we need to focus as a community on developing innovative and sustainable approaches to professional and personal renewal. As we look towards thriving, not just surviving, we can come together to share best practices that address the challenges and rewards of our profession. The President’s Conference is a wonderful opportunity to share perspectives and expertise. I look forward to meeting you all and sharing our ideas and energy in service of our professional community.

Professor Shapiro will be a speaker at the President’s Conference Time to Heal: Recovery and Renewal on 6-7 October 2021. The full programme for the President’s Conference can be found here.

Category: Wellbeing

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