Peer Program Aims to Create Safe Space, Proactive Support for CRNAs, Anesthesia Clinicians

Source: Texas Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Date: November 07, 2022

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Media Contact: Tyler Pointer

GALVESTON, TX—A group of providers has launched an interdisciplinary peer support program at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) to mitigate the effects of Second Victim Phenomenon (SVP) on clinicians in high-stress anesthesia practice.

According to the Patient Safety Network, "…Second victims are health care providers involved in an unanticipated adverse patient event, in a medical error or a patient related injury and become victimized in the sense that the provider is traumatized by the event." 

forU was created to combat the effects of SVP within the University of Texas Medical Branch's anesthesia department.

The program lead and change agent, Amber High, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and member of the Texas Association of Nurse Anesthetists (TxANA), has been a practicing CRNA for nearly 14 years. High is also a board-certified transformational nurse coach and initiated the peer support endeavor as a part of her scholarly practice project for the DNP program at The University of Texas Medical Branch, School of Nursing.

"Following a needs assessment and baseline survey, it was clear that there were not adequate or timely resources available for accessing emotional support within our department," High said. "In addition to a systematic review of the literature, multiple toolkits and implementation guides have been utilized to facilitate this mission."

According to High, the program intends to create a culture of trust and collegiality for all anesthesia providers at UTMB Health. Colleagues trained as peer supporters will reach out to anesthesia providers involved in any critical event; they are also available anytime for anesthesia providers to self-refer or refer colleagues due to distress from any cause.

"This is not therapy," High reinforced. "It is support from a peer who understands the pressures of navigating challenging circumstances and is trained with effective listening and responding skills to help others do the same."

High noted that after gaining support from key department leaders, peers were nominated to participate in the formal team based on personality traits such as strong emotional intelligence, trustworthiness, compassion, good listening and communication skills, and kindness.

High was mentored by Susan Scott, Ph.D., RN, CPPS, FAAN, an SVP expert who helped her initiate a hybrid training model to ready a diverse group of peer support champions, including a customized workbook and presentation.

"An initial project team of nine providers has completed training, and the remaining 19 are scheduled to complete the training in the coming weeks," High said. "The inaugural team is a multi-ethnic and diverse detachment comprising six CRNAs, two medical doctors (M.D.s), and one resident. The peer support services became accessible on Sept. 26 this year."

High's role and heavy research into the phenomenon of SVP have led to critical data points within the department.

"All healthcare workers are vulnerable to burnout and second-victim trauma, especially those in high-stress environments like anesthesia," High said. "Over 90 percent of our recent department survey respondents indicated they would likely look to a trusted colleague for support after a distressing work event."

High encourages those interested in peer support to utilize the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety, which offers resources and tools to initiate peer support in multiple practice areas.

"Many anesthesia providers have expressed admiration of and appreciation for the new program," High said. "The program aims to at least double in size of trained peer supporters within the next six months. Within the year, the team will expand to include training for other types of providers in other departments within the organization.

About TxANA

Advancing patient safety and the profession of nurse anesthesia, the Texas Association of Nurse Anesthetists (TxANA) was founded on Aug. 9, 1974. Its goals include facilitating cooperation between nurse anesthetists and the health care profession, hospitals, healthcare providers, and other agencies interested in anesthesia. The membership is limited to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and Nurse Anesthesia Students who are members of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).

Nurses were the first professional group to specialize in and provide anesthesia services in the United States in the 1880s. Today there are over 59,000 CRNAs practicing throughout the United States, of which more than 5,000 are located in Texas. CRNAs are advanced practice nurses registered by the Texas Board of Nursing (BON). CRNAs must hold a current state license as a registered nurse, graduate from an approved educational program, successfully complete the certification examination and comply with continuing education requirements for recertification. Learn more at

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