Peer Support to Promote Surgeon Well-being: The APSA Program Experience

Fari Fall, Yue Yung Hu, Sarah Walker, Reto Baertschiger, Iljana Gaffar, Daniel Saltzman, Steven Stylianos, Jo Shapiro, Minna Wieck, Terry Buchmiller, Mary L. Brandt, Thomas Tracy, Kurt Heiss, Loren Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Peer support programs have evolved to train physicians to provide outreach and emotional first aid to their colleagues when they experience the inevitable challenge of a serious adverse event, whether or not it is related to a medical error. Most pediatric surgeons have experienced the trauma of a medical error, yet, in a survey of APSA membership, almost half said that no one reached out to them, and few were satisfied with their institution's response to the error. Thus, the APSA Wellness Committee developed an APSA-based peer support program to meet this need. Methods: Peer supporters were nominated by fellow APSA members, and the group was vetted to ensure diversity in demographics, practice setting, and seniority. Formal virtual training was conducted before the program went live in 2020. Trained supporters were surveyed 6 months after the program launched to evaluate their experiences with providing peer support. Results: 15 referrals were made in the first year, 60 % of which were self-initiated. Most referrals were for distress related to adverse events or toxic work environments (33 % each). While only about 25 % of trained supporters had provided formal support through the APSA program, more than 80 % reported using the skills to support colleagues and trainees within their own institutions. Conclusion: Our experience in the first year of the APSA peer support program demonstrates the feasibility of building and maintaining a national program to provide emotional first aid by a professional society to expand the safety net for surgeons who are suffering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


  • Burnout
  • Medical error
  • Peer support
  • Physician wellness
  • Psychological impact of complications
  • Second victim syndrome

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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