Peer support network offers connection, healing for patients and families after harm

The Betsy Lehman Center is expanding its Patient and Family Peer Support Network and needs your help to spread the word. Newly released graphics, videos, and sample social media posts are now available in an online toolkit.

The Patient and Family Peer Support Network helps people cope with the difficult feelings that arise after something goes wrong in their medical care. As the name suggests, the network connects patients or their loved ones with trained volunteers who have had a similar experience and provide encouragement, support and resources.

The social media toolkit is part of a larger effort to reach patients and families in Massachusetts who have experienced a medical error, unanticipated outcome or a known complication and could benefit from peer support. Let the people in your organization who interact most with patients know about this important resource — unique to our state — and spread the word in your newsletters, networks, social media and other channels.

Jackie Ewuoso headshot square

Jackie Ewuoso

“We've built the program and trained volunteers, now it’s about awareness,” says Jackie Ewuoso, Senior Program Manager at the Betsy Lehman Center, who oversees the peer support network. “Our goal is that every person in Massachusetts has access to the support they need if something goes wrong in their medical care.”

“When someone is diagnosed with a medical illness like cancer, it is easy to find a support group or peer counseling. It should be the same for all unexpected medical outcomes,” she says.

Research from the Betsy Lehman Center indicates that the emotional impacts of medical harm events, which include feelings of depression, loss of trust, guilt, and abandonment, are long-lasting and cause many people to avoid future medical care.

Sue Nevins, RN, went to the hospital for what she thought would be routine surgery. An error occurred during surgery, and she was left with permanent facial palsy on the right side of her face. She was having a hard time coping with what had happened when she met Linda Kenney, who is now Director of Peer Support Programs at the Betsy Lehman Center.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not alone!’ To have someone on the other end of the phone — someone who knows how it feels — is what we search for,” Nevis says. “Talking with Linda that day was the beginning of my healing journey.”

Several years later, she trained to become a volunteer peer supporter with the Betsy Lehman Center.

“I remember thinking, I don’t want anyone to ever feel this way again,” she says. “So I became very interested in peer support and finding out what I could do [to help]."

The peer support network is part of a larger effort by the Betsy Lehman Center to address the emotional needs of health care professionals, staff, patients, and families. The Center is also working with hospitals across the state to establish Clinician and Staff Peer Support Programs to help caregivers cope after these difficult events. Learn more here.

Patient and Family Peer Support Network
Telephone: (617) 701-8271
Learn more


We want to hear from you!

Email us your feedback and comments: