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  Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

Dr. Nancy Blackwelder

There are two kinds of Administrators.

Those who have had a crisis....

And those who will.


Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for School Employees

By Dr. Nancy Blackwelder


 School employees can incur debilitating emotional damage from trauma associated with school violence.  "The trauma to the victims of violent crime often invokes an emotional response in excess of grief and closely resembling Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Bixler, 1985, p. 3)."  The stress is exacerbated by the necessity of the victims to return to the scene of the crime each day and the tendency to deny themselves the natural human responses to stress in an effort to care for the children. 

          Emergency service professionals have incorporated Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) programs and indicate worker burnout and workman's compensation claims decreased as a direct result.

                    The purpose of this investigation was to  describe, compare, contrast, and evaluate crisis intervention procedures provided for employees of three school districts where a critical incident occurred.

          A case study design included participant interviews, questionnaires  and an analysis of public documents.  Each district's crisis intervention plan is described, compared to emergency service CISM programs, and evaluated in terms of perceptions of the effectiveness of care provided.

          This study addressed the following questions:

1.       What was the nature of the crisis intervention for staff?

2.       How did the provisions for employee crisis intervention compare and contrast with those provided by emergency service agencies?

3.       What was the perceived effectiveness in caring for the emotional and psychological needs of the staff involved in the crisis and what component (s) of the plan contributed to that perception?

          Results indicated that employees were greatly affected, exhibiting symptoms of critical incident stress and posttraumatic stress months and years post-incident.  There was a significant difference in the average number of symptoms respondents experienced according to their proximity to the incident and there was a significant difference in the average number of symptoms experienced according to the nature of the incident. There were services provided to staff members that were perceived as effective and largely an absence of services that contributed to a perception of ineffectiveness. 

            It was recommended that school districts develop a Critical Incident Stress Management program for employees.

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