September Journal: Peer supporters at risk for emotional exhaustion during COVID-19 pandemic
Peer support is an effective, well-received approach for healthcare professional colleagues who face stress, challenges, and reduced well-being. A new study in the September 2022 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, “The Well-Being of Peer Supporters in a Pandemic: A Mixed-Methods Study,” suggests that peer supporters may be at risk for emotional exhaustion due to their increased role and involvement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers conducted surveys among peer supporters from five well-established peer support programs across the United States — ChristianaCare, MedStar Health, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, University of Missouri Health Care and Johns Hopkins University — to assess secondary traumatic stress, compassion satisfaction (the pleasure derived from helping others) and burnout during the pandemic. Differences in well-being outcomes were analyzed by role, age, years in healthcare, and unit areas. Additionally, qualitative content analysis was performed for open-response questions.
A total of 375 peer supporters completed the survey between spring and summer 2021. Findings showed:
- Most participants recorded low secondary traumatic stress and moderate to high compassion satisfaction.
- Nearly 44% reported concerning levels of emotional exhaustion.
- Compassion satisfaction scored significantly lower and emotional exhaustion significantly higher among the youngest cohort of millennials and Gen Z.
- Both compassion satisfaction and emotional exhaustion differed across career stages.
- Emotional exhaustion was significantly higher in peer supporters working in COVID units than in non-COVID units.
The study proposes that maintaining effective peer support programs during an ongoing pandemic requires healthcare organizations to study and support the well-being of peer supporters. Recommendations to sustain effective peer support programs include:
- Investing in peer support programs.
- Equipping select groups with basic peer support skills and resources.
- Recruiting new peer supporters to maintain capacity and engagement.
- Advocating for healthcare professional needs.
Also featured in the September issue are:
- Development and Validation of a Brief Culture-of-Safety Survey (Northwestern Medicine, Chicago)
- Equity, Where Art Thou? Opportunities to Improve Safety Culture Measurement (editorial)
- Positive Outcomes in a Virtual Partial Hospitalization Program (Northwell Health’s Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York)
- Outcomes of Anesthesiologist-Led Care of Patients Following Liver Transplantation During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York)
- Implementing a Toolkit to Improve the Education of Patients on Home-Based Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy (OPAT) (Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore)
- Pandemic Preparedness: COVID-19 Lessons Learned in New York’s Hospitals (open access commentary)
- Factors Associated with Malpractice Claim Payout: An Analysis of Closed Emergency Department Claims (research letter)
Access the Journal.