The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences initiated a medical student peer to peer support group organized and led entirely by students. It is unique from traditional groups in that it is devoid of faculty/administrative presence and exists purely to support students who are suffering from acute or prolonged grief. The group meets once per month and discusses topics that are particularly difficult for medical students who have recently lost a close friend or family member. All students are invited and announcements are provided monthly via email. Faculty and students have made a concerted effort to encourage students to attend who are struggling with a loss. The group is led by 1-2 upper level medical students who arrange monthly times around MSI-V test and rotation schedules. The responsibility for the leaders is reasonable and includes providing a structure for the 1.5-2 hour monthly sessions. Topics for discussion including: coping during the holidays, reliving traumatic events, seeking expert counseling, communicating with faculty regarding extenuating circumstances, taking time off from medical school, and many more. Sessions can be structured around readings, books, and any grief tool that students find helpful. Sessions can end and/or begin with a brief meditation. Attendance and discussions from every session are private – this is very important. The group provides a safe space for students to grieve, question, connect and support one another in a private setting. Because medical students have significant time restrictions, the group meets conveniently around students' schedules and only meets once per month (with many students who attend meeting in smaller groups between monthly meetings). It creates a shared bond among medical students who ‘get it'. It can help students get from one day to the next. This group gives students an option. A first step. And from this step, hopefully many more to follow.
KeywordsInterprofessional, Professionalism, Wellness, Medical Humanities, Student Affairs, Mentoring, Medical Ethics, Communication Skills, OSR, Development, Counseling
Amy Waldner, MD, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
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