November 6, 2020

Learning Psychological First Aid During the Age of COVID-19

Emily Ishado

It may be hard to believe, but just 11 months ago, we were wrapping up the year 2019. Do you recall what life was like back then? What were you most excited about? Perhaps you were looking forward to the Summer Olympics or embarking on a new project, or maybe you were looking forward to closing out one decade and eager about the potential opportunities in 2020. Unfortunately, for most of us (or likely all of us), 2020 has not turned out as we had hoped. COVID-19, a new contagious viral disease, was discovered and quickly spread across the U.S. and the entire world. Before we could fully process the severity of this disease, it was declared a pandemic and Washington State issued Stay-At-Home orders. Suddenly, schools and businesses were closed. Many lost their loved ones or their jobs or had their usual routine turned upside down. Our lives were completely changed.

Text: Psychological First AidWhile some change can be good for us, change is also difficult and can cause emotional distress. Additionally, after any traumatic event, crisis, or disaster, there are higher rates of people experiencing psychological distress than physical or medical effects. This is especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which approximately 2-3% of people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus. Still, many more are struggling to cope with multiple losses, changes, and other stressors. How can we support each other during such unprecedented times? One way is through learning Psychological First Aid (PFA), a set of skills that can be taught to anyone and is intended to provide others with a compassionate presence to help stabilize and mitigate acute stress.

Through the support of CARES Act Funding, the UW School of Nursing’s Partnerships in Ambulatory Care Nursing program developed a continuing education introductory course on PFA. This training was provided to Kaiser Permanente of Washington Nurses in October 2020. Additionally, a module and simulation exercise on delivering PFA to patients will be created and implemented into the BSN ambulatory care clinical course in December 2020. An online module and resources will soon be available on the CHSIE website. Through the dissemination of this educational training, the UW Partnerships in Ambulatory Care Nursing program is meeting the behavioral health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding the capacity of our communities to emotionally support ourselves and each other during this difficult time.