The Center for Public Health Preparedness (CPHP) at the University of Albany School of Public Health, was funded by the ASPPH to develop a psychological first aid (PFA) training Coordinator Guide and associated materials, and to train county health department, hospital and other response agency staff in the use of the guide. PFA is an evidence-informed approach for assisting survivors in the immediate aftermath of disaster or personal crisis to reduce initial distress and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning. Early interventions such as PFA can help promote a healthy recovery. However, a 2016 needs assessment of New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH)-supported regional Health Emergency Preparedness Coalitions (HEPC) identified the lack of PFA trainings, training policies, and organizational expertise in organizing PFA trainings as major barriers to achieving a PFA-competent response workforce.
The PFA Training Coordinator Guide, includes a review of all available on-line PFA training courses with information on how to select the appropriate course for the intended audience, 10 preparedness scenarios – e.g. Point of Dispensing (P.O.D): emergency shelter, hospital Emergency Department (ED) – and a facilitation guide for their use in interactive scenario-based, face-to-face practice sessions, links to three YouTube videos demonstrating the face-to-face practice session methods, examples of PFA model training policies and sustainment strategies, evaluation and quality improvement tools for those conducting PFA training, and additional resources such as: links to just-in-time trainings, smart phone apps, training manuals and videos, a PFA overview PowerPoint slide set, and population-specific PFA resources.
Statewide trainings in New York on the use of the guide were provided to mental health professionals (two trainings) to act as facilitators to the face-to-face scenario trainings, and to HEPC member agency training coordinators (six trainings). In-person presentations and letters to county health department and hospital leadership encouraged staff participation in the trainings and the development by HEPC member agencies of PFA-specific training policies.
Pre- and post-training evaluation forms showed that overall confidence in knowledge of PFA and self-efficacy in applying PFA, on a scale from one (not at all confident) to five (very confident), among 239 HEPC agency training coordinators increased from 3.8 to 4.5, a 25 percent improvement. Nearly 90 percent of trainees said their organization would find PFA training valuable, 85 perceent were interested in developing PFA training policies, and 82 percent could help develop those policies. A follow up survey in July 2017 showed that 47 percent of respondents had conducted or planned to conduct PFA trainings and 33 percent had developed PFA training policies or intended to do so. Organizations whose training coordinator participated in the PFA Training Coordinator training were 3.1 times more likely to have had their organization use PFA in an emergency response, exercise or drill, 1.7 times more likely to have conducted or planned to conduct a PFA training for their staff, and 2.8 times more likely to have developed or planned to develop a PFA training policy than those that did not participate.
In terms of sustainability, PFA training will be a deliverable in the next five-year cycle of NYS DOH public health and healthcare preparedness funding to county health departments and hospitals. PFA face-to-face scenarios have already been included in at least one NYS DOH-required preparedness exercise, and are anticipated to be included in future drills and exercises.
Staff trained in PFA is critical to public health and healthcare agency capacities to respond to disasters. PFA training guides and policies, with the support of agencies’ leadership, are important tools to assure these capacities are sustained. The approach of this project is a model for assuring training needs in other areas of public health are met.
YouTube Training videos:
Point of Dispensing
Staff break room
Hospital waiting room