Dec 16, 2022 | Featured Articles

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) is calling on all family members and close friends of firefighters and paramedics in Ireland to take part in the ‘HUGS@Home’ project which will provide training in the elements of Hearing, Understanding, Guiding and Supporting (HUGS) at home in order to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their first responders.

Going home after a difficult shift at work may sometimes be the hardest task for first responders to deal with, and they often lean on family members and close friends to listen, understand, guide and support them when coping with the aftermath of stressful situations.

Early intervention of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) reduces the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, but access to support services remains limited due to the lack of resources or stigma associated with seeking help. Social support is one proven way to help combat the after-effects of stressful events, and first responders often lean on their colleagues, families and close friends for this support.

The ‘HUGS@Home’ project builds on research undertaken by Dublin Fire Brigade, which found that recruit firefighters/paramedics preferred to talk to a family member or friend after a stressful incident in work. This finding led to the introduction of a Recruit Family Night, to raise awareness around how the training and operational role of a firefighter/paramedic has an impact at home. It helped to open the lines of communication between family members and first responders.

Family members and friends who participate in the project will receive a pre-course handbook, outlining the common reactions to some of the situations their first responders may witness and how sometimes these reactions may have an impact at home.

Based in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) SIM Centre for Simulation Education and Research, HUGS@Home is one of 15 projects funded by Movember’s Veteran and First Responders Grant and the only project in Ireland to receive such funding.

Project co-leader Michelle O’Toole and Brian Doyle, former first responders and CISM peer supporters with Dublin Fire Brigade, have been joined on the team by Prof Walter Eppich (project co-leader), Dr Claire Mulhall, Dr Angeline Traynor and Anna Tjin from the RCSI’s SIM Centre.

“Training in practical techniques will enhance the communication skills of family members and friends, thereby enabling them to recognise signs and symptoms of stress, encouraging them to engage with their first responders to support them. The training involves simulation enhanced scenario-based interactions, which will prompt reflection and discussion, before having the opportunity to practice their newly acquired skills in a safe environment,” Michelle told ‘Emergency Services Ireland’.

If you’re interested in getting involved complete the HUGS@Home Expression of Interest form.

For more information, please email [email protected].



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