Peer Support for Medical Residents

Peer Support for Medical Residents

Nov 08, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Facing challenges in the early stage of your medical profession could be a burden if you carry it alone. The hospitals have also been busier because of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic so you can experience more cognitive, physical, and emotional stress. With this, it is important that you have a support system that could understand and help you. You can find comfort in participating in peer support groups for medical residents since it is a type of approach that aims for being there for each other.

The best thing about this type of group is that you share the same experiences and troubles with other members so for sure, you will be able to relate to each other. As a team, peer support groups could also create a positive impact on society by helping doctors experiencing burn-out to recover and keep the medical team going.

Peer support groups also remind doctors that the culture of medicine is extremely powerful. This culture is so strong that it allows doctors to put their patients first and be good healers. This is a wonderful gift that nobody can take away from you. This, however, has not been so evident throughout the years. The first reason is the heavy workload experienced by doctors especially during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Being stressed and exhausted at work has caused physical, mental, emotional, and social deterioration in each doctor. With this, many physicians have lost their drive and motivation to go to work and do their job. Second is the fact that there is a lack of appreciation for doctors. Even though physicians are paid to do their jobs, the care, and dedication they give for their patients in invaluable.

With all of these at hand, you might be probably be asking yourself, “How can I wake up and go to work tomorrow if things keep on being this way?” this is where peer support can come in. Incorporating peer support programs into the physician practice and health system have numerous benefits.

First of all, the group will encourage you to share your feelings with other doctors. Being able to express your thoughts to people who are also undergoing the same hardships could truly be relieving. This will be a routine that you will have to attend to. The group will also check on you to make sure things are getting better for you.

After people had given you their full caring attention, you must feel extremely wonderful. The feeling of being supported by people is truly encouraging. Because of that, you must also return the favor and listen to others empathically. Pay attention to what they are saying so that you will really be able to understand what your peer is going through. Having the time for speaking and listening is what peer support is all about.

The next step is to reflect on what was shared. You will be able to find out that what you are experiencing is not unique, you are not alone, therefore finding solutions to your problems might be easier. Reflection also involves validating what you heard from others.

Reframing emotions is also a good practice in peer support. This means that you and your peer put your emotions in context. When you do this, your emotions are directed to the positive side. The difficult part is if you or your peers share too much, either of you may get too emotional. Though this can not be easy at times, this is a key ingredient in this process.

Because both speaking and listening take place, teaching and learning at the same time are also encouraged. This allows each member to grow every day. Also, learning and teaching are very important during this pandemic especially that there is so much new information on the table, both in terms of the disease itself and suggested coping mechanisms for doctors and other healthcare professionals. These skills can also be extremely useful when taking care of patients.

An important aspect of peer support is assisting each other to connect with any positive coping mechanisms so that everybody can use proven strategies to overcome each person’s current circumstances. Identifying these can help the peer work through emotions or problems blocking their path. You and your peers will also realize that taking time to care for yourselves is also very important. Lastly, peer support that includes your colleagues may be available and extremely beneficial, but it is also good to consider friends and family as primary support systems. They may not be in the same profession so they will not be able to understand you all the time, but this does not mean that they cannot be supportive of you.

Doctors are experts in their field, but they also need someone to help them from other health professionals. Physicians do not usually have access to some healthcare support like mental health council and support groups, so it is truly important that such programs are integrated into the benefits that healthcare workers, like doctors, receive.

One of the primary stressors of most doctors is that they are overworked but underpaid. Because of this, many peer groups now offer their resources to help out their peers.

If you want to join a support group, ask around if there is one in your hospital. Peer support may also be available in your locality or in the state you live in. There are many options for you out there.

Do not feel embarrassed about participating in support groups. Being in one does not mean you are weak or incompetent. Even senior physicians, fellows, and faculty members participate in groups like this. Also remember that when you are in the group, do not be shy. Just express how you feel about your job as it is. You and the other physicians are going through the same thing. It is important that everybody is aware that doctors need to be helped and cared for too.

If peer support has truly helped you so much, it is also good to be able to invite others so that you could help struggling physicians like you. It is important that you revive your drive and passion to serve your patients so that you can do your job well, help many people, and make work enjoyable in every way possible.