In 22 years as a medical assistant, Chanel Copeland has seen how stressful the role of caregiver can be. Now part of the team at the Duke Orthopedics Heritage Clinic in Wake Forest, Copeland has served in urgent care and emergency medicine situations before.
She understands how when the stakes get high for patients, the mental toll it takes on caregivers can be overlooked.
“A lot of times when you’re practicing medicine, there’s a stigma about saying you’re having a bad day because you have to be perfect every day, all the time,” Copeland said.
In the summer of 2022, Copeland learned a new way to support her well-being and that of her colleagues by participating in a “Stress First-Aid” training program offered by a team from the Duke University School of Nursing and School of Medical. The program has helped her use the connections between team members to prevent stress from compromising the mental well-being of caregivers.
“One of the things I’ve learned is how important it is to pay more attention to the people around me,” said Copeland, who now spends more time checking in with colleagues. . “We’re so focused on patient care, which is really important, but if we don’t take care of each other, we can’t take care of the patients.”
The concept of Stress First Aid was originally developed by the National Centers for PTSD in conjunction with the US Department of Defense as a way to support service members during difficult deployments. It serves as a framework for identifying stress responses in yourself and those around you, with the goal of preventing harm, preserving life, and promoting recovery.
At the heart of Stress First Aid is a continuum that uses four color-coded levels to assess your level of stress, or that of a colleague, and provide potential courses of action.
“The vision of Stress First-Aid is to give someone a set of skills to assess a peer in crisis, ask them questions, get more information and make a decision about improving care or getting better. it can support the person with basic peer support behaviors,” said Sean Convoy, clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing, who designed the content for Duke’s Stress First Aid training.
Funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration Award, Duke University School of Nursing and School of Medicine, in partnership with the College of Health and Sciences at North Carolina Central University, launched a training program for four hours on stress first aid for students, faculty and staff. in healthcare earlier this year.
Sign up for an upcoming Stress First Aid training session. The next two sessions will be virtual and synchronous and are scheduled for Friday December 2 and Thursday December 15. There are also sessions scheduled for March 24, 2023 and June 9, 2023.
“It’s been on our radar for a long time, but everything has accelerated with COVID and we’ve seen that we can’t just rely on our healthcare system to treat people with severe stress reactions,” said Professor Dr. Mitchell Heflin, who helps organize the trainings. “Part of the work we need to do is to establish mutual recognition and accountability to each other.”
After the initial training sessions, the organizers of the Stress First Aid program enlisted the help of healthcare professionals in units at Duke and NCCU to review the content of the program and help tailor it to the needs of their specific areas. Their input will help shape the next round of training sessions and give healthcare professionals and students at both institutions even more effective tools to care for each other during times of stress.
“A lot of people have felt helpless in the face of stress,” said Dr. Bernice Alston, director of the Duke University School of Nursing’s Student Success Center and one of the organizers of the Stress First Aid training program. “This training gives people the tools to allow them to step in and do something.”
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