Peer counselling for doctors in Norway: A qualitative study of the relationship between support and surveillance

Isaksson Rø K, Veggeland F, Aasland OG. Soc Sci Med. 2016 Aug; 162: 193-200. Published online 21 June 2016 in Social Science & Medicine.


Abstract in PubMed:

RATIONALE: Peer support can entail collegial responsibility for counselling and support as well as reactions to academic or ethical failure. These considerations can be complementary, but also conflicting.
OBJECTIVE: This article focuses on how the peer support programme in Norway addresses these considerations.
METHODS: Focus group interviews held with Norwegian peer counsellors from August 2011 to June 2012 were analysed by a stepwise deductive-inductive method.
RESULTS: Based on organisational theory, two "ideal types" of counsellors were identified from the data, and these were then used to reanalyse the text. We found that the organisational framework is associated with the peer counsellors' role conception and thereby the relationship between the counsellor and the help-seeking doctor. The relationship between informal frameworks like collegiality, confidence and discretion, and more formalized incentive-driven frameworks, appear to influence the accessibility to peer support, the mandate to provide relevant help and the understanding of what peer support represents.
CONCLUSION: The study showed the need for a continuous awareness of a balance between the informal and the more formalized elements in the framework for peer support. This is of importance for how the service can contribute to better health among doctors and to secure quality and safety in the treatment of patients. The analysis can also be used to demonstrate the consequences of how the peer support program is designed - such as the degree of formalisation and the balance between "hard" and "soft" ways to regulate the interaction between peer counsellors and doctors - for the ability to achieve the stated objectives of the service.

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