Building a Program of Expanded Peer Support for the Entire Health Care Team: No One Left Behind

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Medical errors can cause second victim syndrome (SVS) in caregivers. Literature describing the development of effective peer support programs is limited. This article describes the implementation of a peer support program for an entire health care system.


The research team initially trained 52 supporters representing all clinical areas throughout an urban academic quaternary care campus. Each then supported at-risk colleagues, raised awareness of SVS, and recruited others for training. Triggers for peer support expanded to include medical errors, unanticipated patient outcomes, inability to stop the progression of medical conditions, medical emergencies of colleagues, aggressive behavior by a patient/family member, and COVID-19 events. Data reporting supporters’ efforts were summarized. After the initial 5-hour session, training was condensed into 2.5 hours. The effectiveness of these training sessions was assessed. The Second Victim Experience and Support Tool (SVEST) was used to assess program effectiveness three and nine months after implementation.


By 18 months, a blended program was achieved with 149 supporters: 81 medical college and 68 hospital personnel. Providers received 46.5% of support efforts and hospital personnel 47.9%. The most common event supported was inability to stop the progression of medical conditions (24.5%). Both training sessions improved attendees’ knowledge of SVS and improved their comfort with teaching others how to support a second victim. Both SVEST surveys showed that nonwork and supervisor support rated highest, followed by colleague support. Institution support rated lowest.


The team successfully implemented a peer support program with trained supporters from various clinical disciplines for distressing events beyond medical errors.