What would you do if you notice that your colleague has been unusually withdrawn or showing signs of distress recently?
If your answer is to reach out and show some care, you may have just played the role of an informal peer supporter – consciously or not.
"Peer support is about staff supporting staff. As colleagues, we are in a good place to understand, empathise and support each other," said Ratna Indra Putri, Assistant Peer Support Coordinator.
Programme Coordinator Koh Chee Wai, Manager of OCH MSS added: "We can refer staff who have the interest and aptitude to be trained peer supporters for courses, which will equip them with the skills and knowledge to better support their colleagues."
Led by our Medical Social Services (MSS) team, the SCH Peer Support Network was established as part of the workplace psychological care continuum. For a more balanced representation, the coordinating committee comprises staff from all different domains, and meets regularly to discuss and champion the Programme’s initiatives.
As of early November 2021, there are 26 fully trained SCH peer supporters, with another group receiving training soon. We have a chat with three of them: SKCH Physiotherapist Lim Win Ni; OCH Senior Staff Nurse Sugeeta D/O K Ramadas; and Assistant Director, Communications, Arthur Wong.
1. How did you become a peer supporter?
Win Ni: My senior colleague approached me to consider being a peer support early this year. Subsequently, on the encouragement of my supervisor, I also attended the trainer course and am now qualified to train budding peer supporters.
Sugeeta: I first learnt about the SCH Peer Support programme through Workplace before my supervisor nominated me to be a peer supporter. After hearing more about peer support from Ratna, I readily agreed to take this role up!
Arthur: I used to present at staff orientation sessions. At one of these sessions, I stayed on for the MSS portion and was introduced to the SCH Peer Support Programme. Later, when Chee Wai invited me to be a peer supporter, I said yes without hesitation.
Win Ni: Peer supporters are active listeners, understanding an individual’s concerns and providing emotional support when necessary. We may not be counsellors or therapists but we can offer a fresh perspective advice or make necessary referrals to other specialists if the situation calls for it.
Sugeeta: A peer supporter is someone who a colleague can easily reach out to when in need, be trusted to not be judgemental while affirming his or her emotions. Everyone needs support at times, be it a friend, loved one or a peer supporter at work.Arthur: Being in healthcare can be very demanding and stressful. When healthcare workers fall short of the expectations to be perfect, a lot of that stress is borne internally and not voiced out. Peer support is the light in that darkness; a guiding beacon that gives you solace and warmth and lets you know that you are not alone. It may not help you get rid of the darkness, but it is something you can tap on to help you manage your emotions and continue moving forward.
4. Apart from turning to others for support, can you share some of your favourite ways to self-care? Win Ni: Since physical gatherings are not feasible, I catch up with my friends regularly via text and calls. I also enjoy giving myself breaks from work and relax by listening to music and playing mobile games, where I get to interact with players from different parts of the world. Sugeeta: Self-care is essential to our mental and physical wellbeing. Of late, I like to rejuvenate and pamper myself with staycations. I also like to get a good workout in with fun Zumba exercises conducted virtually. When I am home, I enjoy exploring new recipes in the kitchen and watching Netflix. Arthur: I indulge in my hobbies. Away from home, I sweat it out on the badminton court, and in the comfort of my home, I spend time with my collection of vintage watches.
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