Physician Peer Support Initiative

As physicians, your triumphs and challenges are unique, and support from trusted colleagues can have a positive impact on your experiences at work and wellbeing. To facilitate responsive local peer support programs which help to enable healthy workplace cultures, the Physician Health Program (PHP) and the Joint Collaborative Committees (JCCs) are partnering to develop a Provincial Physician Peer Support Initiative in BC. The establishment of this peer support training initiative is possible thanks to funding from the Joint Collaborative Committees; and Scotiabank, MD Financial Management Inc., and the Canadian Medical Association as part of the new Physician Wellness+ Initiative, which aims to address the urgent and ongoing health and wellness needs of physicians and medical learners.

Program Objectives

  1. To facilitate responsive and proactive formal peer support opportunities for physicians needing emotional support or experiencing work or life-related stressors.
  2. To support physician peer supporters to offer non-clinical emotional support to physician colleagues in formal peer support settings.
  3. To provide opportunities for participating local organizations (Divisions, MSAs, etc.) to share knowledge and collaborate as they develop and build their own local peer support programs.
  4. To actively pursue alignment and coordination between different peer support programs provincially.

Program Organization

Informed by feedback from a consultation with Divisions of Family Practice and Medical Staff Associations, the Peer Support Initiative will be administered through a hybrid model that involves:

  • PHP and the JCCs offering provincial peer support training through Dr. Jo Shapiro, Associate Professor with Harvard Medical School and founder of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Centre for Professionalism and Peer Support, and Dr. Maureen Mayhew, PHP Program Physician.
  • Local physician organizations (e.g. Divisions, MSAs, Sections, etc.) responsible for implementing the peer support program at their local site/community including recruiting peer supporters, facilitating peer support matches, promoting the initiative, etc.
  • PHP and the JCCs facilitating inter-site peer support matches for physicians not comfortable receiving peer support within their local site/community
  • PHP and the JCCs providing support for peer supporters, resources and regular opportunities for participating organizations to share knowledge and collaborate
Why is the Peer Support Initiative being developed?

In 2021, the BC Physician Health Program has seen an increase in 93% of physicians seeking help since 2019, indicating the high demand for physician wellbeing support. We facilitated a consultation during Summer 2021, and 75% of the Divisions and MSA respondents expressed interest in collaborating to provide peer support. There are also several existing local physician peer support programs with varying levels of training and formal implementation, presenting an opportunity for coordination and alignment.

Studies have shown that peer support for physicians can be effective in contributing to a culture where physicians feel more comfortable seeking and offering help. People who use peer support show improved coping and self-management skills, have stronger social networks, reduced isolation and a reduced need for intensive services.

Peer support encourages an authentic human connection with another person who shares similar life experiences – in this case, the unique stressors and challenges faced by physicians. Peers offer non-judgmental listening and non-clinical support with life, work and other issues.

We aim to facilitate these confidential, non-clinical empathetic conversations between colleagues, where physicians feel safe to share issues they are experiencing with someone trained to listen.

Who can get involved?

Any existing physician organization such as Medical Staff Associations, Divisions of Family Practice, Sections, hospital departments and others may apply. If you are an individual physician interested in getting involved, we encourage you to connect with your local physician organization to apply. Multiple organizations serving the same geographic location may submit a joint application if they wish.

What is the commitment involved?

Please refer to these Terms of Reference to understand the commitment involved.

What type of support is provided?
  • One-time start-up fund
  • Peer support training by Dr. Jo Shapiro and Dr. Maureen Mayhew with sessional funding and CPD credits
  • Peer Support Implementation Toolkit
  • Regular meetings with other peer support sites for knowledge sharing
Funding support available to peer support sites

To support prototype sites in launching their local peer support program, a one-time start-up fund of up to $45,150 is available for each site. This amount is based on the estimate that running a peer support program will require approximately 0.1 FTE of Physician Lead time and 0.2 FTE of administrative support time.

This fund is only available for the first year of the peer support program development. During this time, we encourage local organizations to gather site-specific evidence on the uptake and satisfaction of their peer support program to support securing stakeholder buy-in, rationale for prioritizing future funding and to ensure the program’s ongoing sustainability.

Sessional funding and up to 3.5 MOC Section 1/Mainpro+ Group Learning credits will be provided to physicians attending peer support training. This funding is separate from the one-time start-up fund. More information about funding guidelines will be shared with selected peer support sites.