Have you experienced a stressful event in the course of your work (i.e. violence or incidents involving multiple injuries or death)?

Have you experienced a stressful event in the course of your work? 

Fraser Health's Critical Incident Stress Management team assists employees, medical staff and volunteers who are experiencing strong reactions to a significant event that occurred while on the job.

Services are available 24 hours a day. To request help, call: 1-844-880-9142

You may be exposed to exceptionally stressful events in the course of your work. We can help support you in recognizing strong reactions to an event. Support is provided to minimize the severity, impact and duration of these reactions.

What is a critical incident?

A critical incident is an event that may cause individuals to experience strong reactions and has the potential to interfere with their ability to function effectively either at work or at home. Determination of a critical incident should be based on the incident and the response of individuals to the situation.

Examples of a critical incident:

  • Threatened or actual violence
  • Unanticipated poor patient outcome
  • Injury or sudden death of a co-worker on the job
  • Major incidents involving multiple deaths and/or injuries
  • Attempted/completed suicide

How to know if you’re experiencing critical incident stress?

Critical incidents may produce a wide range of symptoms, which can appear at the time of the incident, a few hours later, or within a few days of the event. Stress symptoms usually occur in four different categories (see below). The longer the symptoms last, the more potential there is for permanent damage. The following are examples of stress symptoms that may appear after a critical incident:

  • Cognitive: Poor concentration, memory problems, poor attention span, difficulties with calculations, difficulty in decision making, and slowed problem-solving.
  • Emotional: Loss of emotional control, grief, guilt, depression, anxiety, feeling lost or overwhelmed.
  • Physical: Muscle tremors, chest pain, headaches, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal distress, and elevated blood pressure.
  • Behavioural: Excessive silence, sleep disturbances, unusual behaviour, changes in eating habits, withdrawal from contact, and changes in work habits.

How we can support you?

Debriefing/defusing: a group process in which trained providers will assist in addressing and responding to the emotional psychological consequences resulting from the critical incident. The process is based in crisis intervention and educational intervention theory. This is not counselling/therapy and it is not a clinical audit or practice post mortem.

Debriefings take place 1-10 days after the incident

Defusings are less structured and are offered within hours of the event.

One-on-one interventions: one-on-one interventions can also be arranged when the impact of the incident is isolated to one individual.

Ongoing education: Education on stress and critical incident management will be provided across other Fraser Health programs such as: Emotional First Aid peer Support, Advanced Emotional First Aid, Resilience411 (to register, email resilience@fraserhealth.ca), and The Cost of Caring Trilogy (to register, email resilience@fraserhealth.ca). 

A Critical Incident Intervention can:

  • Normalize reactions to an abnormal event and help to decrease feelings of isolation and anxiety.

  • Return to normal functioning sooner by reducing the potential effects of the incident.

  • Decrease the accumulation of stress that can lead to diminished emotional and physical health.

For more information, visit our CISM page on Pulse