Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention (CDIP)
May 18, 2023
First Responder Resilience Curriculum Project
In 2016, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Act, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (1997) was amended by Bill 163, Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2016), requiring employers of first responders' (FR) to develop and implement post-traumatic stress disorder prevention plans.
The Ministry of Labour then issued a call for proposals for the Occupational Health, Safety, and Prevention Innovation Program (OHSPIP) in 2017-2018. In response, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) worked closely with local first responder organizations to submit a successful proposal outlining six project commitments. One key commitment involved working with St. Clair College to investigate the feasibility of developing a mental health educational module to support the resilience of first responders during their post-secondary training.
The first phase of the project was completed in December 2020 and involved a needs assessment to identify core mental health and resilience topics to embed within the existing college-based curriculum. Key informant interviews were conducted with 29 representatives from policing or law enforcement, fire and rescue, paramedic, and emergency healthcare. More than 30 post-secondary representatives and mental health providers were also consulted. The analysis highlighted the need to develop educational materials across four themes, which were: a) Resilience & Coping, b) Mental Health Literacy, c) Help Seeking and Intervention, and d) Role Preparation.
In the Fall of 2021, The WECHU transitioned into the module content development and implementation phase of the project. A total of twenty lessons were developed for the four modules, which included the creation of powerpoint slide decks, case studies, lesson plans, various multimedia and interactive components, and activities. Throughout this project phase, key stakeholders were consulted regularly in the development and review of material. The four modules and the associated 20 lesson topics are presented in Table 1.
|Resilience & Coping||Mental Health Literacy||Help Seeking & Intervention||Role Preparation|
|Stress, Resilience & Coping||Mental Health Concerns||Getting Help||Expectation Management|
|Self-Awareness||Post-Traumatic Stress||How to Support Others||Work Culture & Conditions|
|Self-Talk & Attitudes||Trauma: Brain and Body||Effective Communication||Work-Life Balance|
|Self-Care||Substance Use, Addiction||Team Building||Identity and Role Conflicts|
|Moral Injury, Empathic Strain & Burnout||Stigma||Being Trauma-Informed||Critical Incidents|
As of March 31st 2022, all module content has been shared with post-secondary stakeholders engaged in the project, including instructors and program administrators from St. Clair College and the University of Windsor. Selected content has been piloted in two post-secondary courses at St. Clair College and positive feedback was received from both instructors and students. The module content is currently at various states of review and implementation in local post-secondary first responder programs. The specific programs as well as the number of students typically enrolled are highlighted in Table 2.
|Institution||Post-Secondary Program||Annual Enrollment1,2|
|St. Clair College||Police Foundations||80|
|Protection, Security, and Investigation||183|
|Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training||25|
|University of Windsor||Bachelor of Science (BScN) in Nursing, Honours||966|
The WECHU has completed its commitment as part of the Occupational Health, Safety, and Prevention Innovation Program (OHSPIP) project work. Some of the programs listed above have expressed intent for a formal incorporation of module content into their curriculum for upcoming curriculum review cycles. Additionally, there are more than 1,500 individuals are currently employed as municipal or provincial law enforcement officers, paramedics, and firefighters across Windsor-Essex County, and there has been expressed interest from local organizations to expand implementation to in-service voluntary firefighters. The WECHU will continue to remain informed about the implementation status for post-secondary instutitions and first responder organizations, impact of the modules on curriclum design, outcomes of assessment and evaluation initiatives, and impacts on students and working first responder professionals.
- Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development College Enrolment Statistical Reporting system. (2022). College enrolment [Dataset]. Government of Ontario. https://data.ontario.ca/dataset/college-enrolment
- University of Windsor (n.d.) Headcount | Office of Institutional Analysis. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from https://www.uwindsor.ca/institutional-analysis/307/headcount.
[a] From available data for 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 academic years from referenced data sources.