Peer Support Program

The Peer Support Program began in 2021 as a means to provide Residents an additional resource for support through their peers. Peer Support is open to all Residents and can be sought in one of two ways. Reach outs can be initiated by Program Directors who believe Peer Support would benefit a Resident who has experienced an emotionally distressing event. Additionally, Residents from all programs can reach in to the Resident Wellness Office to request Peer Support directly. Residents from any program who have experienced an emotionally distressing event or are just seeking supports and would like to be connected with a Peer Supporter, please reach out in our form below.

Peer Support initiator Dr. Jo Shapiro of Harvard and past UBC resident Dr. Elizabeth Purssell got together to have a conversation about the importance of Peer Support. Check out the video to learn more about our program.

Click here to Request Peer Support

If you have questions about Peer Support or want to get connected to a volunteer, please email Please note, peer support is for residents only and at this time we cannot support medical students.


The UBC PGME Dean’s Office was delighted to support the Resident Wellness Office as they launch the much anticipated Peer Support Program.  Doing this in partnership with Dr. Jo Shapiro of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital was a huge honour and we have the utmost confidence in the success of supports like this. We strongly encourage our Residents to reach out for support should they need. This is an evidence based, highly researched peer support model.  As the program unfolds, we welcome any feedback to help better support our residents.” -Dr. Ravi Sidhu, Associate Dean, PGME


The UBC Internal Medicine program was very excited to be part of this Resident Wellness Office pilot program for residents who experience adverse patient events. Similar programs have been very effective for residents in many institutions around North America. Please share any such occurrences with their office.” – Dr. Mark Roberts, Program Director Internal Medicine

What is the Peer Support Program?

The Peer Support Program began as a means to offer Residents who experience an emotionally distressing event in the work environment an opportunity to talk to another Physician (Faculty or Senior Residents) for support in a confidential, non-judgmental environment. The Resident Wellness Office (RWO) has had the pleasure of partnering with Dr. Jo Shapiro to work on her evidence-based Physician Peer Support program. Dr. Shapiro is an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Director of the Centre of Professionalism and Peer Support at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Why is a Peer Support Program needed?

In a 2011 study, Dr. Shapiro found that 88% of Physicians found that talking to another Physician was the preferred source of potential support (over other supports such as an Employee Assistance Program or other mental health professionals). As fellow Physicians are the most preferred source of support, research advocates for peer support as the most effective way to address this important issue.

The current medical culture makes it extremely difficult to reach out for support. The RWO previously had a Peer Support Program that was a reach-out model, where Residents looking for peer support would reach out to the RWO to be connected with a peer. This model was heavily under-utilized. Using Dr. Shapiro’s evidence-based reach-in model, where Peer Supporters connect with Residents who experience an emotionally distressing event, the RWO has extended our resources to offer support.

Who are Peer Supporters? How are they prepared and supported throughout the role?

Following Dr. Shapiro’s evidence-based peer support model, all Peer Supporters are nominated by Residents as people whom they would want to talk to about an emotionally distressing event. The RWO emailed all Residents in October 2020 to nominate Senior Residents or Staff as Peer Supporters.

Peer Supporter nominees were offered to voluntarily participate in the program. All interested Peer Supporters have participated in a training session with Dr. Shapiro before the start of their role in December 2020 and January 2021. Ongoing meetings facilitated by the RWO are hosted throughout the year to provide ongoing support to Peer Supporters and gather further feedback for the program moving forward.

What is an emotionally distressing event? Who can share an adverse event with the RWO?

An emotionally distressing event is any patient interaction that could be emotionally upsetting to a physician. This might include a difficult/ aggressive patient interaction, a patient death, a near miss, a known risk to treatment or procedure, a medical error, or a complication. Any resident, Chief Resident, Attendings, or Faculty can share with the RWO that a resident was involved in an emotionally distressing event. This is called a Reach Out. Alternatively, any Resident feeling the need to talk to a peer can Reach In to the RWO to request individual support.

Can I access Peer Support for reasons other than an emotionally distressing event?

Yes! Peer Support is not just for emotionally distressing events. We ask that emotionally distressing events are shared with the Resident Wellness Office so our Peer Supporters are able to reach out to residents. If you are a resident who would like Peer Support for other reasons, please reach in to our office by completing this form. Other reasons may include burnout, academic difficulty, remediation, negative feedback, CARMS, or the general stress of residency.

How do I request Peer Support?

Peer Support can be either through a Reach In or a Reach Out. A Reach In is when a Resident contacts the RWO directly regarding the need for Peer Support. A Reach Out is done by a Program Administrator, typically after an emotionally distressing event, where the RWO arranges for Peer Support through educating staff and providing supportive instruction for the program.

Whether you are sharing an emotionally distressing event that a resident experienced or are a resident who would like peer support, please complete this form

What does the Peer Support process look like?

Who can I contact with questions or feedback about the project?

Elizabeth Sabine, RWO Counsellor, and Bronwyn Taylor, RWO Program Coordinator, are able to respond to any questions or feedback regarding the Peer Support Program. Please email with any questions or feedback.