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June 30, 2015

New resource available for family doctors helping patients affected by disasters

Unique handbook developed by the JIBC SIMTEC Project provides psychosocial resources for family physicians treating patients impacted by major accidents and other mass-casualty events

BC Family Physicians Guide

Family physicians have a new resource from the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) that provides valuable information to improve support for patients affected by a major accident or mass-casualty incident (MCI).

The vast majority of people exposed to an MCI like a major accident, community violence, or a natural disaster, will experience moderate-to-severe psychological impairment such as anxiety and depression, according to research by JIBC's Simulation Training Exercise Collaboratory (SIMTEC) Project. Children and youth are likely to exhibit behavioural issues in addition to psychosocial symptoms.

Early identification and treatment of symptoms is essential to mitigate the long-term impact of mass-casualty incidents.

The BC Family Physicians Guide was developed by SIMTEC researchers through funding from Defence Research and Development Canada, with the support from Health Canada.  It was created to help family doctors quickly assess and provide treatment options more efficiently for patients suffering the psychological effects of experiencing a mass-casualty incident (MCI). 

“Through our research and in discussions with our team of experts in the field, it became apparent that there was a need for this kind of essential resource,” said Dr. Laurie Pearce, JIBC’s Applied Research Chair and SIMTEC Co-Principal Investigator. “We hope that it will serve as a key tool for family doctors and other health care professionals to understand the unique experiences patients will face in a mass-casualty incident, and provide the important support their patients need.”

Doctor supporting patient

Included in the guide are various assessment tools that have been developed to help identify Acute Stress Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and a range of treatment options that have been proven effective in supporting patients after an MCI.

It also includes additional insights for physicians to support the unique psychosocial needs of elderly patients, Aboriginal patients, and emergency responders and rescue workers.

“As one of the first care-providers that people turn to for help, family physicians are well-positioned to help their patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The key, however, is in recognizing the presenting symptoms and then considering PTSD as the diagnosis,” said Dr. Graham Dodd, an emergency, family and disaster medicine consultant. “While medication may have a role, the more important management often involves forms of psychotherapy. Therefore knowing and directing patients to appropriate resources in or near the community is perhaps the most invaluable role a family physician can play after having considered or made the diagnosis of PTSD.”

This project was initially funded through the former Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), and continues under the Canadian Safety and Security Program, a federal program led by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.

About Justice Institute of British Columbia

Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) is Canada’s leading public safety educator developing dynamic justice and public safety professionals through its exceptional applied education, training and research. JIBC offers internationally recognized education that leads to certificates, diplomas, bachelor’s degrees and graduate certificates; exceptional continuing education for work and career-related learning and development; and customized contract training to government agencies and private organizations worldwide. Our education provides professionals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to excel at every stage of their career contributing to safer communities and a more just society.

Tags: BC Family Physicians Guide, citizens, first responders, mass-casualty event, MCI, psychosocial support, SIMTEC, Simulation Training Exercise Collaboratory

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Last updated October 1, 2015