UC San Diego program aims to combat provider suicide

A program aimed at preventing suicide among healthcare workers has seen great success since its 2009 implementation at the UC San Diego School of Medicine in California, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Healer Education Assessment and Referral program encourages employees to seek help when they're feeling overwhelmed. UC San Diego began offering the program to physicians in 2009 and to nurses in 2012. Although a recent study shows nurses die from suicide at a much higher rate than the general population, UC San Diego has not had any nurse or physician suicides since the program began.

Culture change and confidentiality are key factors in the program's success, according to Sidney Zisook, MD, one of HEAR's co-creators and a psychiatry professor and researcher at UC San Diego.

Healthcare employees have traditionally been expected to remain stoic in the face of death and traumatic events, but the HEAR program seeks to remove that stigma. Hospital administrators send out annual mental health surveys and encourage employees to seek help. A third party oversees encryption of surveys and emailed responses to ensure confidentiality, and the results are never shared with supervisors or administrators.

Several other locations have since emulated the HEAR program, including UC Davis.

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