The Minnesota Department of Health adapted the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder's Psychological First Aid (PFA) course into a brief training for emergency responders. Minnesota shortened the original training to a 2-4 hour course that could meet core competency requirements for disaster behavioral health responders and address the needs of specific local audiences.
Two presentations were tailored to K-12 schools and local health departments. The presentation for school staff includes information on: the types of trauma and its physical, cognitive, sensory, behavioral, and spiritual effects; major components of PFA; an applicable scenario involving a student killed in a car accident; advice on creating or using support systems and collaborative services at schools; and how to restore the learning environment. The presentation for local health departments includes similar information on trauma, but augments the PFA training with information on: behavioral services surge and triage; when to refer an individual to a behavioral health professional; the psychological needs of people with functional needs; and major core competencies for public health professionals. A pocket card reminds behavioral health responders of the main components of PFA, while a self-care pocket card developed by Idaho State University Institute of Rural Health encourages self care among providers.
The training sessions were designed to be delivered by licensed behavioral health practitioners with disaster experience. The practical experience of the instructors is intended to add value to the abridged course.
Conveying needed PFA information in an abridged timeframe and having such strong, thorough presentations prepared for schools and local health departments makes these materials especially transferable and easily adaptable to a range of emergencies.