What it Means to Be a Monitor

The assistance and support volunteer monitors provide to colleagues working with Physician Health Services, Inc. (PHS) are essential and often contribute significantly to the recovery and well-being of the physician. When a physician contracts with PHS for a substance use disorder or behavioral monitoring contract, physician monitors are assigned for a long-term period — typically two to five years.

The role of the monitor is to observe the contracted physician’s demeanor, appearance, and interactions at his or her workplace. The monitor is someone who works with the physician on a regular basis and, to the extent possible, has limited conflict of interest. The monitor should be a stable, trustworthy person as well as watchful and supportive of the physician.

A workplace monitor is not alone in this role. In addition to PHS support, a chief of service is listed on the contract for each monitored physician. PHS dedicates resources to ensure monitors are provided with information that outlines the important details of the role they play in the contracting physician’s recovery. “A PHS associate director is assigned to every client and is available to monitors — whether for information or to answer questions that might arise,” said Ruthann Rizzi, MD, PHS associate director.

There are times when a physician is not currently working, yet needs a physician to serve as a monitor. This is an important time for the physician to have an additional source of support from a colleague. PHS also monitors medical students. In those cases, medical school physicians serve in the role of monitor.

Monitors typically meet with the physician weekly and are available should a problem arise. The weekly meetings should be in a private, comfortable, and secure location, and consist of open-ended questions and discussion about work, family, social life, recreation, and hobbies. Monitors should be especially attuned to personality and behavioral changes, as well as unusual workplace behavior.

Monitors are asked to complete a PHS quarterly report form about the physician’s progress. PHS and its physician associate directors are available for monitors to contact with questions or concerns.

Physicians are encouraged to consider the role of monitor when the opportunity arises. “Providing support for a colleague in a time of need can be a rewarding contribution to a peer and to the profession if you feel you have the time to give back,” said John Wolfe, MD, PHS associate director.

Are you interested in assisting PHS by volunteering as a monitor to a colleague in your hospital or practice, or to be available if the need arises in your facility or area? If so, call PHS at (781) 434-7404.

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