Written by: Brandon Wells
The potential for a catastrophic injury or critical incident is an ever-present reality in the athletic training profession. While athletic trainers are trained to handle adverse situations, who helps the athletic trainer deal with the psychological impact following a catastrophic event? Who acts as the athletic trainer for the athletic trainer? These questions led to the creation of a peer to peer support group called ATs Care.
ATs Care is a nationwide support network of athletic trainers specially trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). The ATs Care program was initially approved for development in 2014 by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and modeled after the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF). The ICISF provides peer to peer support for emergency response professions. Staffed by athletic trainers, the ATs Care program is designed specifically for those in the athletic training profession. The care provided is confidential, educational, and most importantly, non-judgemental. ATs Care provides post-event peer to peer psychological and emotional support to athletic trainers who have experienced a critical incident. A critical incident, as defined on the NATA website, is “any event, which has the ability to overwhelm the usually effective coping skills of an individual or individuals”.
Athletic trainers devote their careers to serving the health and wellness needs of patients across all settings. Unfortunately, catastrophic injury and critical incidents occur each year and athletic trainers involved in these situations must learn to cope and move forward. Just like an athlete who is in an unhealthy head space and is not performing at their best, athletic trainers may need to reach out to return to a state of well-being. This is where ATs Care comes in.
How can ATs help ATs in a crisis?
ATs Care offers a wide variety of resources for ATs in crisis. These include, but are not limited to, pre-incident education, training, and post-event assessment. Pre-incident education provides athletic trainers and AT students with educational materials about critical incidents, post-traumatic stress, and the potential effects of the aftermath, both at work and at home.
ATs Care also provides psychological first aid training to athletic trainers and AT students at national and regional meetings. Finally, when called upon, an ATs Care staff member contacts the AT involved in the critical incident to provide psychological and emotional support to athletic trainers through phone calls, on-scene assessment support, demobilization intervention, post-incident defusing, group debriefings, and follow up.
ATs Care in Tennessee:
The main goal of ATs Care is to have regional and state CISM teams located throughout the country that are available to respond to the needs of AT colleagues, students, and staff. Tennessee has a team of ATs Care members that can help when called upon. Brad Swope, a veteran athletic trainer located in Nashville, is an ATs Care provider in Tennessee. “The biggest thing athletic trainers should know is that we are available to help, and they shouldn’t be afraid of seeking help after a critical incident. It works,” says Swope. Swope also emphasized that ATs Care representatives are not trying to figure out if critical incidents were handled correctly, they are simply there to provide emotional and psychological support to the athletic trainer.
If you know an athletic trainer in Tennessee who has been through a critical incident and could use some assistance, there are a couple of different ways to contact an ATs Care representative. The first is to complete the online contact form at https://forms.nata.org/ats-care-contact. Brad Swope has also provided his contact information: (615) 478-2435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in joining the ATs Care program as a service provider, ATs Care is currently looking to add more athletic trainers in Tennessee. Contact email@example.com for more details and training information.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
International Critical Incident Stress Foundation Emergency Hotline: 410-313-2473