'Code Lilac': Memorial Hermann's emotional support program sees 10K calls

"Code Lilac" — one of the largest, most robust hospital-based peer responder programs in the country — was born at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in 2015 after a workshop on vicarious trauma led staff to acknowledge the emotional toll of their work. 

The peer support program was rolled out to the entire Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System in March 2022, and now has more than 400 volunteer peer responders across 17 teams. Trained in psychological first-aid, these volunteers provide "compassionate, nonjudgmental, non-punitive and confidential support" to on-site colleagues in distress, according to a Nov. 14 news release. The program also offers a 24/7 hotline for all members of the workforce, from employees to physicians. 

Demand has been high, per the news release. Code Lilac first responders have provided support to more than 10,000 colleagues since the program's launch, through individual and group support sessions following stressful events at the health system. 

"We developed Code Lilac to give our workforce a confidential space to talk to their peers about what is troubling them," Laura Salazar-Hopps, chaplain manager of Code Lilac, said in the news release. "They experience a high degree of emotional trauma exposure all the time, including difficult cases and cumulative stress. Code Lilac gives distressed health care workers the opportunity to talk to a colleague who understands and can help them better deal with what they are going through."

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