Debriefing the caregivers
Contributed by: Public Entity Risk Institute
Why debrief caregivers? When a trauma response team has finished its work with the people involved in a critical incident, they are normally tired and ready to return to their own lives. However, they still have one piece of work left to be done, namely to take a few minutes to debrief themselves. Because they have spent several hours being exposed to the pain of the people involved in the event, they too have potentially become affected by it. As a result, members of the team may be having some reactions to the debriefing.
Through the process of debriefing the response team, three goals should be accomplished:
- To prevent negative reactions such as vicarious traumatization, cumulative stress, and the effects of negative self-judgment.
- To teach and reinforce skills for team members.
- Model what is taught to help victims in the debriefings
- By assuring that a debriefing of the team is a standard operating procedure the team will increase their effectiveness and longevity on the team. It decreases the chances for any negative personal reactions by members of the team and monitoring the team for any adverse reactions. It also prepares the team for re-entry into the everyday world.
(AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett)
Normally the debriefing should be done shortly after their work is done and before the team disburses. If a team has been involved in a particularly difficult debriefing or a series of defusings/debriefings/demobilizations over a prolonged event response, the debriefing might better be done within a few days. This will allow the team an opportunity to process some of the event on their own and then to finish the work together. While the "debriefing the debriefers" process normally takes 15 to 30 minutes for "regular" debriefings, it can be significantly longer for particularly difficult or long situations.