Psychological first aid training could help improve the well-being of social workers

A new study showed that psychological first aid, a training originally created to help others, can help healthcare workers in nursing homes improve their own mental well-being.

First developed by the World Health Organization, Psychological First Aid (PFA) is the globally recommended training for people, such as healthcare workers, who support others in emergencies. .

It offers advice on providing psychosocial care immediately following an emergency.

Although PFA training was originally created for people to support others, scientists from Northumbria University and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have also identified it as a suitable way to help caregivers take care of their own mental health and well-being.

As part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2020 the UK Government introduced free online PFA training in a bid to support frontline staff, such as the 1.8 million people working in nursing homes across the country.

Assessing the effectiveness of this initiative, academics from Northumbria and UHI investigated the uptake of PFA training among healthcare workers in care homes in the UK and assessed its effects on their well-being. -be.

Funded by the Royal College of Nursing Foundation, the study was the first of its kind and makes recommendations for further implementation of psychological first aid.

Researchers found that although adoption of PFA training was low among healthcare workers – less than 10% of study participants had taken the training – those who had taken the PFA training fared better .

The results suggest that the PFA training helped overcome stress and cope via personal growth and improved relationships with others, but there was a concern about accessibility, which the academics say may explain low participation in training.

Some research participants described it helping them cope better when thinking about quitting their job and fostering resilience, with one person commenting: “(PFA) helped me cope better, it was a position that I thought I would give up at some point and now I have the strength to carry on.”

Others described how it helped support them in their grief experiences to overcome the trauma of the pandemic: “I found it (PFA) useful as it helped me deal with grief as well as to the experience of seeing loved ones affected by COVID-19”. Another participant went so far as to say that PFA training “should be made mandatory for all staff, especially in retirement and care homes during the pandemic or not”.

Dr Mariyana Schoultz, Project Leader and Associate Professor of Mental Health in Northumbria’s Department of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, said: “The findings suggest that PFA training has the potential to: health and social services; stigma messages and normalizing help-seeking behavior; PSPs have the potential to minimize the risk of developing more serious psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But we need more research in this area.

“We therefore recommend that consideration be given to funding an integrated research and development program to develop, implement and further evaluate a co-produced iteration of PFA for use in the UK care home sector and beyond.”

Deepa Korea, Director of the RCN Foundation, said: “Staff working in social services during the pandemic have faced significant pressures which have inevitably impacted their own mental health and emotional well-being. That’s why I’m delighted that the RCN Foundation was able to commission this important study which adds to the body of evidence on the practical ways in which we can support health and social care workers.”

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