Care for Colleagues is a support program at UF Health designed to help faculty and staff, regardless of their job title, deal with unanticipated events that can have devastating effects.
The goals of this program are to increase awareness of the needs of “second victims” — health care workers who may sustain complex psychological harm when they have been involved in errors that harm patients — and develop support for nurses, physicians, pharmacists and allied health care workers that are involved in any unanticipated adverse patient event.
“It is critical that physicians and staff remain focused and energized in order to maintain quality of care and patient safety,” said Irene Alexaitis, D.N.P., R.N., NEA-BC, UF Health Shands Hospital chief nursing officer and Nursing and Patient Services vice president.
These second victims are often unable to successfully process their feelings of fear, sadness, guilt and shame. This program was developed as an organizational response to support these health care workers in their time of need.
“We have to take care of each other,” said Michele N. Lossius, M.D., UF Health Shands chief quality officer. “What we do is hard, and sometimes near misses or bad outcomes bring up old events. During those times, everyone should know that support is in place whenever it’s needed.”
Peer supporters from all disciplines complete necessary training to provide frontline crisis interventions. Their role is to provide emotional support — emotional first aid — to second victims.
The program offers three types of staff support:
- Local support involving staff on the unit and department
- Peer support involving supporters trained to provide crisis intervention around the clock
- Referral network support established with the UF Health Shands Employee Assistance Program, chaplain services, social work and/or clinical psychologists
Care for Colleagues supporters are not counselors, but rather they are peers who have good listening and supportive skills. Services provided are kept confidential.
“You do not have to have training as a counselor to be a peer supporter,” said Alexaitis.
“If you are a good listener and can support others emotionally, you can be a peer supporter.”
Alexaitis added, “This program takes care of our caregivers to ensure they have the support to continue to provide excellent care to our patients.”