Psychosocial Peer Support to Address Mental Health and Burnout of Health Care Workers Affected by COVID-19: A Qualitative Evaluation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



International journal of environmental research and public health








COVID-19; burnout; health care system; health care workers; mental health; peer support; qualitative evaluation; staff wellness


Health care workers in the U.S. are experiencing alarming rates of burnout. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened this issue. Psychosocial peer-support programs that address general distress and are tailored to health care systems are needed. A Care for Caregivers (CFC) Program was developed at an American metropolitan university hospital and outpatient health care system. The CFC program trains "Peer Caregivers" and managers and has four components: the identification of colleagues in need of support; psychological first aid; linkage to resources; and the promotion of hope among colleagues experiencing demoralization. Qualitative interviews ( = 18) were conducted with Peer Caregivers and Managers participating in the initial piloting of the program. Results suggest that the CFC program shifts the organizational culture, teaches staff skills for recognizing and supporting others in distress, and supports those staff who are already providing these services informally. Findings suggest that staff distress resulted primarily from external factors and secondarily from internal organizational stressors. External stressors were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program has promise for addressing staff burnout, other organizational efforts are needed to simultaneously promote staff wellness. Ultimately, psychosocial peer support programs for health care workers are feasible and potentially impactful, but also require other systemic changes within a health care system to improve and sustain staff well-being.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences