Support of health care providers during difficult times has been an often-voiced concern, and health care entities around the country are responding. Physicians within the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine proposed that a program be built to come alongside faculty physicians, resident physicians, and other health care providers after an adverse patient care event.
In a survey done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, physicians stated they overwhelmingly preferred to talk to a colleague about the emotional effect of an adverse event rather than any other source. Barriers to seeking support included lack of time, stigma, lack of confidentiality, and access.
After receiving support and funding from OU Physicians’ captive insurance carrier, APIC, it was decided to model a program based on other successful colleague support programs such as Brigham and Women's and Stanford Academic Medical Center. The purpose of the program is to create a mechanism by which clinicians can communicate about their experience and emotions with someone who has 'been there.' While the program is specifically not for the purpose of giving legal advice, medical expert opinions, or professional psychological counseling, the panel will offer both support and strategies that have helped other clinicians in similar situations.
OU Physicians seeks to provide a meaningful process and forum to overcome those barriers. While a primary focus is providing support of physicians after a critical incident, the program includes support after any difficult patient care encounter, claim, or other support needed.
In brief, when the program is activated a Colleague Supporter will be contacted with only the name of the physician involved. No details about the event will be included. Upon acceptance of the assignment, OUP PLRM will send one email to the physician involved and the Colleague Supporter with each other’s contact information, attaching a resource sheet. The Colleague Supporter will then make an initial outreach to the involved provider, and the provider will then contact the Colleague Supporter if they so desire. The Colleague Supporter will provide listening and suggestions for coping and self-care as needed, including: acting as a confidential and collegial resource, looking for warning signs of a more serious nature, and offering appropriate referrals.
This program has been integrated into the OU Physicians Professional Liability & Risk Management (PLRM) department and their facilitation of the OU Physicians Patient Safety and Risk Management Committee function; meaning that communication will be protected from discovery in the event of litigation. To comply with this, Colleague Supporters will: 1) not communicate with the Involved Physician by email other than arranging a time to talk, etc.; 2) not keep any written notes; 3) not receive any patient identifiers; 4) not review any legal or medical documents. Contact the PLRM Director if concerns about communications arise during the course of support.
In addition, strict adherence to privacy on the part of each Colleague Supporter is required regarding the case and the physician and his or her circumstances. This confidentiality can be broken if the Colleague Supporter feels the physician may be a danger to him or herself or to others. Training has been provided to all Colleague Supporters on these triggers.
Contact the Colleague Support Program
For more information on this program, please call or email:
Phone: (405) 271-1800
Kelly Kimberling, MJ, CPHRM
Colleague Support Directors:
Karen Gold, MD – Tulsa Services
Jason Lees, MD – OKC Adult Services
Robert Letton, MD – OKC Pediatric Services