UNC Medical Center launches new Integrated Emotional Support Program

As UNC Medical Center continues to strive towards the goal of achieving the Quadruple Aim, UNC Medical Center is launching a new Integrated Emotional Support Program for all health care professionals. This program will connect health care providers with emotional support resources following adverse patient events. All health care professionals who provide patient care or make decisions that directly impact patient outcomes can utilize the program.

The program, which is funded by UNC Hospitals, was created with the understanding that adverse patient events can have a long-term impact on health care providers.  Caregiver event-related trauma can negatively affect performance, patient safety and quality of care delivery, ability to work in a team, patient satisfaction, retention and absenteeism.

One role of this new umbrella program is to increase awareness of existing programs at UNC Health Care that have not traditionally seen a high level of utilization. Those existing resources include the Employee Assistance program and the Critical Incident Stress Management Team. The Employee Assistance Program provides up to five free sessions with a local counselor. These sessions are completely confidential and protected under HIPAA; managers will not be notified.  The Critical Incident Stress Management Team implements group-focused and individual support after adverse patient events as well as work-related stress events.  The team responds to incidents that create staff stress above the ordinary for the unit and the people involved. 

UNC’s new peer support program will connect health care professionals with trained volunteers who will offer one to one trained peer support in the wake of adverse patient events. Following adverse events, providers who wish to utilize the service will be connected to volunteers who have been trained in providing evidence-based, compassionate peer support. Every effort will be made to connect those utilizing this service with peers who perform similar work; nurses with nurses, for example.

The program originated when Samantha Meltzer-Brody and Celeste Mayer were motivated by a growing body of evidence and their own experiences at UNC to develop a 1:1 peer support to provide support for health care professionals after highly unfavorable patient outcomes.  After a successful pilot in 2014, they acquired funding for the Integrated Emotional Support Program to expand the program to help all health care professionals at UNC. 

Jenny Tauber, MHA, is serving as Program Coordinator for this effort. Celeste Mayer, PhD, and Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, are also providing leadership.

More information on these resources and how to utilize them is available here.