The “Bat Signal” was introduced in 1942’s Detective Comics #60 as a way for the police in Gotham City to call on the superhero, Batman. Throughout the different versions of the story the mechanism has changed, but the bat signal has always been shorthand for a distress signal — a call for backup or support. And this concept can be applied directly to medicine and the needs of healthcare professionals.
Physicians are incredibly strong and resilient, but there are times when the villains we face can feel overwhelming. During times of crisis, who better to know what we’re facing and what we need to get through a challenging period than a peer? With some simple actions, we can all serve as superheroes to our peers, if and when they call for support, because there’s truly no one better than a trusting, confidential peer for support.
In this blog we’ll look at why the bat signal is a great analogy and why we should develop one for our peers.
Meaning of the “Bat Signal”
In Gotham, the bat signal changed over time, but what it represented remained constant. Most think of it as the shining light in the night sky, but in the 60’s TV show, the bat signal took the form of a phone. Some older physicians will be comforted to know that at one point it took the form of a pager.
The bat signal has two important meanings:
- A Call for Support – The bat signal functions as an important distress sign, when standard law and order is not enough. Occasionally in our lives and careers, we encounter the unexpected, like the city of Gotham facing a threat from the supervillain, the Joker. At these times, a professional peer who understands what we’re facing can jump in and help us to follow our personal and professional values.
- Symbol of Confidence and Hope – The bat signal also instills confidence and hope in the public or community at large. Seeing the bat signal lit in the night sky warns the adversaries of the collective effort to oppose evil. Knowing that we have a superhero on our side provides hope and a boost of resilience to support good.
Why We Need a “Bat Signal” for Peers
Has your colleague had a bad day or an unexpected adverse outcome? Are they being menaced by the EMR or another burnout-inducing Joker? Would they benefit from talking to a peer even though they trained to process all challenges alone? Most of us have been there. Understandably, we might hesitate to offer unsolicited help. That’s why we need to set up a system before the need arises, so our peers are empowered to call for backup with a simple signal or call. Our goal is to shine a symbol of confidence, hope, and support for our peers and community.
Take a few minutes to consider what a peer support bat signal might look like to you. It might be a private phone call from a peer, a text from a former classmate, or a direct message on social media from a friend. Who might it come from and how can they trust to reach out to you? Our bat signal should be a way for our peers to activate support and open lines of communication without much explanation. None of us should be going this alone, and knowing that we have a peer to offer support, confidence, and hope in a moment of need is really what the bat signal is all about.
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