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Seb Anthony

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Critical Incident Stress Managment


I will be working with a group that occasionally has to deal with emergency calls. They have the structural procedures to deal with them effectively, but my task will be to help them with strategies to deal with the emotional aspect of the incident. Often they won't even have "closure", or know how the event turned out. They are just there to answer the initial call. Any suggestions?
Sandra Rouse

5 Responses

  1. can I challenge the assumptions?
    Hi Sandra

    Is there evidence to suggest that this is actually an issue or is it an assumption that there is a stress inducing emotional issue?

    (If the former please read no further, consign my contribution to the bin where it belongs…)

    If the latter, might we, by making that assumption, be creating the self fulfilling prophesy that anyone involved, however peripharally, with a traumatic incident must (or at least really ought to) be stressed by it?

    Having been in the services and having worked with folk in the emergency services I have met very many people who recognise that this is simply the job they do….they recognise the limitations of their involvement and are quite able to divorce their experience from the incident without loss of sleep, hair or sanity.

    Sorry that this isn’t the support you asked for but perhaps here is a place for the “Devil’s Advocate”


  2. More Information Please
    Hi Sandra

    I agree to an extent with Rus’ comments, although just because there is no specific evidence at the moment, doesn’t necessarily mean there is no requirement. The questions just may not have been asked before.

    In addition, whilst discussions about ‘Stress Management’ can prompt certain people to jump on some kind of bandwagon, a lot depends on how the subject is approached.

    Other than this, as a professional Stress Counsellor I can help with a lot of techniques for coping with stressful incidents in all types of situations and tailor training courses around this, as well as working with indivuals.

    If you can provide more information, I’ll try and be more specific. You may wish to visit in the meantime to get some general background.

    Best wishes

    Annie Lawler

  3. from my experience
    Hi Sandra,

    From my previous experience as being on-call for a local authority I have to say I agree with Rus somewhat.

    The most potentially traumatic call I dealt with was about a man who chopped his head off with a home made gullotine. Other things my colleagues have dealt with are fatal/serious accidents at work, tornado jet crashing and the outbreak of foot & mouth dsease.

    What helped us cope?

    1. Having robust procedures in place to deal with the emergency and knowing exactly how to respond helps you feel you have made a positive contribution regardless of the situation or outcome.

    2. Having support from colleagues knowing we could ring them at any time day or night if needed (voluntary between ourselves)

    3. Being able to talk about it and “debrief” the next working day if necessary.

    4. Closure – finding out the outcome if we wanted to. For calls that came in through one of the call centres we were always willing to talk to the operator to let them know what the outcome if they wanted to.

    Where I worked wasn’t that enlightened when it came to training as most systems had developed informally between colleagues. To be honest I don’t know what training – if any – would have helped. for me the most valuable things were support when needed and closure. I note you say in your post that there is often no closure or knowledge of how the event turned out – would it possible or more worthwhile to concentrate efforts in this aspect of the procedure?



  4. Peer-to-Peer Debriefing
    Thank you for your comments.
    The “operators” have to deal, every once in a while, with 911 type calls. It is a visual process, so they may even, via the Video Phone, see something horrendous. The training will indeed address the “peer-to-peer” support and debriefing issues. Just didn’t want to re-invent the wheel if there is viable information out there.
    And devil’s advocates are ALWAYS welcome.

  5. Critical Incident Debriefing
    Hi I used to work for a police service and we had a scheme where a number of staff were trained thru Nottingham university hospital to deal with, Critical Incident Debriefing.
    The course was over two days gave an indepth understanding of the effects and outcomes and equiped the debriefers to facilitate Critical Incident debriefings with goups or individuals. This was not an investigatiting or reporting process, The incidents were looked at from the perspective of those involved,in terms of what happened, when, who was involved, outcomes and possible effects for individual of PTStress.We found it to be a very useful tool when working with extraordinary events and “normalising” the effects,it offered an arena where it was acceptable and safe to speak out and validate feelings, which often do not get voiced in a workplace due to the organisational culture.
    “That’s the work we do, there-for we should be able to deal with it” Who made that rule and did everyone get a say! Organisations have a duty of care to it’s employees which now thankfully is begining to be taken seriously.
    It is human to feel and humane to have understanding.


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