netcare

Emergency medical provider extends service offering to include dedicated trauma counselling

Specialised counsellors now able to care for the emotional wellbeing of patients

A traumatic event or situation is often accompanied by extreme stress and the inability to cope, which can have a lasting negative impact on the body’s ability to heal.

As an extension of its service offering, emergency medical services provider, Netcare 911, recently introduced a dedicated trauma counselling service for patients and their loved ones.

“In the event of a traumatic experience such as a road accident, near drowning or drowning of a family member, an assault or crime-related injury, our paramedics will identify the need for specialised trauma counselling and immediately notify the Netcare 911 trauma counselling team via our national emergency operations centre,” says Netcare 911’s head of emergency operations centre and clinical operations, Richard Mulder.

“Netcare 911 trauma counsellors are well equipped to help patients to cope with the trauma that they have experienced. The general idea behind this service is not just to care for the physical wellbeing of our patients and their loved ones, but also to address the psychological and emotional wellbeing of those impacted by a traumatic event.”

“Our trauma counselling service operates on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes during a traumatic experience those impacted may not necessarily realise the emotional or mental effects they have suffered at the time. It may, however, present later as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition triggered by the shock of experiencing or witnessing a highly distressing event. PTSD can severely impair functioning and the ability to lead a normal, productive life. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares and acute anxiety for years after a traumatic experience,” Mulder notes.

“Effective trauma counseling early on is therefore critical. Given good, timeous support these individuals can make a good recovery over time.”

“The initial phase after a traumatic experience is often the most critical. Counsellors use this time to diffuse acute stress and debrief the patient. At this time patients will be taught coping mechanisms to help them deal with the after-effects of the trauma experienced,” explains Mulder.

“Often, in the event of an extensive trauma, this is the time when the individual is the most ‘closed off’ and not fully aware of what happened, what they are feeling, or going through. For this reason the Netcare 911 trauma counsellors will see each patient between one and three times, depending on the needs of the particular individual and the degree of trauma suffered. If there is a need for longer-term psychological treatment, the trauma counsellor will refer the patient to a psychologist.”

The Netcare 911 trauma counsellors are all appropriately qualified and also received specialised training from business strategy, talent and growth opportunity firm, LeadStrong. Three Netcare 911 counsellors are based in Gauteng and one each in Durban and Cape Town. Given the growing need for this vital service, several Netcare hospitals also have on-site trauma counsellors.

According to Dr Alan Bougardt, director of LeadStrong, the standard and quality of the Netcare 911’s trauma counsellors is notably high. “All of them demonstrated a true passion for people, a quality that is most important when dealing with the emotional and mental wellbeing of individuals who are often at their lowest ebb after a traumatic experience. It was evident that for the trauma counsellors this is not just a job, but a calling.”

“The counsellors, who were clearly handpicked, all have previous trauma counselling experience and most had studied the psychological and emotional effects of trauma. They generally have multiple trauma certificates as well as bachelors’ degrees in psychology. The training covered psychological and emotional trauma and supervised trauma debriefing role-play sessions,” he observed.

“The mental and emotional wellbeing of a patient can play an active role in their physical healing and, as Netcare 911, we are glad to extend the range of care that we are able to provide,” concludes Mulder.