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Peer support network helps employees deal with emotionally challenging events

Common reactions following a traumatic event

These are normal reactions to traumatic events, but if you are experiencing any of these and want to talk to a Peer Support Program team member, speak to your manager or call the program: 203-688-4242.

  • Feelings of guilt and personal responsibility
  • Anxiety
  • Anger and irritability
  • Decreased confidence and job satisfaction
  • Depression and isolation
  • Intrusive thoughts about the event
  • Obsessively replaying the event over and over
  • Second-guessing
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Thinking of leaving the job or profession
  • Avoiding patient areas or job functions
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Crying, shaking
  • Headaches or fatigue
  • Emotional numbness or detachment

Working in health care can be stressful in the best of times. But sometimes, events occur that can be overwhelming, such as the sudden, unexpected death of a patient.

While mental health experts agree that talking about a difficult situation is helpful, it can be hard to open up to someone who has never been through that experience. To help, Yale New Haven Health has launched a Peer Support Program with teams available at all five hospitals. 

One phone call to Yale New Haven Hospital’s program (203-688-4242) puts any employee in touch with a peer who has been trained to help them cope with difficult events and provide support and emotional first aid during times of high stress. 

“People are more comfortable talking with someone who has been there before,” said Bud Wassell, coordinator, Employee and Family Resources, which supports the program.

The Peer Support team is made up of employee volunteers from a variety of clinical and non-clinical departments. All team members complete a six-hour training session and are prepared to provide support and direct users to additional resources if necessary.

“These teams are designed to respond at an appropriate time to those affected by an emotionally challenging event,” Wassell said. “They are a kind of first responder who can help people get through a tough time and make sure that additional support is provided if the employee needs it.”

While not professionally trained mental health experts, Peer Support team members are equipped to facilitate small groups or comfort individuals. In all cases, sessions are completely confidential and free of charge.

“The program has been well-received and the feedback from those who have used it is overwhelmingly positive,” Wassell said.