Tools for Health Care Teams to Beat Stress

In 22 years as a physician assistant, Chanel Copeland has seen how stressful the role of caregiver can be. Now part of the Duke Orthopedics Heritage Clinic team in Wake Forest, Copeland previously worked in urgent care and emergency medicine settings.

He understands how, when the stakes are up for patients, the emotional toll on caregivers can be overlooked.

Chanel Copeland “Often when practicing medicine, there’s a stigma that you’re going to have 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 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 Medicine. The program helped her use the bond between team members to prevent stress from jeopardizing caregivers’ emotional well-being.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how important it is to pay more attention to the people around me,” says Copeland, who now spends more time checking in with colleagues. “We’re focused on patient care, which is really important, but we can’t take care of patients if we don’t take care of each other.”

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The concept of Stress First Aid was initially developed by the National Center for PTSD in collaboration with the US Department of Defense as a way to support service members in challenging deployments. It serves as a framework for identifying stress responses in you and those around you, with the goal of preventing harm, saving lives, and promoting recovery.

At the heart of Stress First Aid is a continuum that uses four color-coded levels to rate your or a co-worker’s stress level and provide possible courses of action.

“The approach to stress first-aid is to give someone a set of skills to assess a colleague in crisis, ask them questions, get more information and improve care, or decide whether they can help initially. Peer support behavior,” said associate clinical professor of nursing Sean Convoy, who designed the content for Duke’s stress first aid training.

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Stress ContinuityFunded by a Health Resources and Services Administration award, the Duke University School of Nursing and School of Medicine in partnership with North Carolina Central University’s College of Health and Sciences launched a four-hour stress first aid training program for students, faculty and staff. Earlier this year in healthcare.

Register for an upcoming session of Stress First Aid training. 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.

Duke University School of Medicine Professor Dr. Mitchell Heflin, who is helping organize the training. “Part of doing what we have to do is establish mutual recognition and responsibility for each other.”

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After the initial training session, organizers of the Stress First Aid program enlisted the help of health care professionals in units across Duke and NCCU to review the program’s content and help tailor it to the needs of their specific area. Their input will help shape the next round of training sessions and give health professionals and students at both institutions more effective tools to care for each other during stressful times.

“Many people feel helpless when dealing with stress,” says Dr. Bernice Alston, director of the Student Success Center at Duke University School of Nursing and one of the organizers of the Stress First Aid Training Program. “This training equips people with the tools to let them go in and do something.”

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