Procedure for Supervisors/PSPs

Target Audience: Supervising Doctors and Peer Support Doctors

The Barwon Health Emergency Department offers a localised peer support program for medical staff who have been involved directly or indirectly in a critical incident, within or associated with the workplace.


The objectives of the peer support interaction are:

  • To provide an opportunity for an affected staff member to talk about the event in a confidential and non-judgemental setting
  • To provide empathy
  • To answer any medical / technical questions that arise (within the capacity of the peer support person)
  • To provide information about expected emotional/cognitive/behavioural responses to critical incidents as per the APS info sheet on understanding and managing psychological trauma.
  • To provide information about self-care and external care options if needed.

The program aligns with the Barwon Health procedure “Supporting staff involved in or affected by critical incidents”. This document outlines the procedure for supervising staff and the providers of the peer support. It is noted that all offers of support are optional for staff and there is no mandatory debriefing unless required for operational purposes.


When a critical incident occurs, the supervising consultant:

  1. Ensures the short term safety of doctors involved:

e.g. Are you ok? Are you safe to drive home? Do you need a break before seeing another patient? (A break subject to operational requirements is to be encouraged).

2.  Contacts the Peer Support Persons (PSPs) by phone or email within 24 hours to advise that a critical incident has occurred and includes the names of the doctors involved.

3. Considers providing the Peer Support Information Sheet to doctors involved in or likely to be affected by the critical incident and tells them to expect a text from a Peer Support Person (PSP) within the next few days.

Following receipt of notification by the supervising consultant:

1.The PSPs will determine who will contact whom to ensure that only one contact is made. The PSP who makes contact will ideally not be involved in employment or formal assessment of the doctor being contacted.

2.The designated PSP will text the doctor involved within 48hrs with an opt out option. If no opt out, the PSP will ring the doctor to ask how they are going in relation to that incident and to offer the option of a phone or in person chat.

Dear Doctor,
A notification has been received that you have been exposed to a potentially stressful incident at work.
If you would prefer not to have contact from a designated peer support colleague in relation to this, please text back ‘no’ and your name to my phone number
Otherwise, one of us will aim to touch base in the next day or so.
Kind Regards,
Website link:

3.A maximum of 2 chats through the PSP are available. If further discussion or support is required or if there are concerns regarding mental health or wellbeing, then the PSP will (with consent), refer to the internal Employee Assistance Program via StaffCare, or external GP or psychologist.

Tips and resources for Peer Support Persons:

  • Emergency support: StaffCare also provides afterhours (24/7) emergency support on  0408 127 147.
  • Other emergency contacts are listed on the StaffCare One point site and on cards which are available from StaffCare.
  • Various self-care resources are available on the StaffCare One Point site. StaffCare recommends the Australian Psychological Society publication, Understanding and managing psychological trauma: Information and tips, available directly online from
  • When providing peer support remember:
    • Avoid being judgemental
    • Avoid sharing personal experiences that are still traumatic
    • Avoid entering a therapeutic relationship (which includes the provision of prescriptions or an ongoing counselling relationship)


Critical Incident (as per PROMPT guideline)

A critical incident is defined as a workplace incident that is sudden, unanticipated, overwhelming or threatening and has a functional impact on the areas of emotion, cognition and/or behaviour. This may include assault, unexpected violence or aggression, unexpected or traumatic death, serious workplace accident or injury or serious threat.

Peer Support Person (PSP)

Within the ED program, a PSP is a voluntary designated staff member of the same discipline who is ideally not involved in the employment or direct assessment of the affected staff member, and who is equipped to provide peer support according to accepted guidelines. ED medical PSPs are contactable on:

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Page last updated: 27 June 2020
© 2018 Emergency Department, University Hospital Geelong