How Responder Assist’s research is supporting emergency workers

Research is ensuring that the services provided through Responder Assist are targeted, relevant and effective for both clinicians and the emergency workers using the service


Responder Assist –  the Centre of Excellence for Emergency Worker Mental Health – provides an assessment and treatment service to ensure emergency workers can access care that is tailored to suit their needs. The service also provides training and support to mental health clinicians who treat emergency workers.


Research is already underway to help ensure that the Responder Assist clinical service is continually improving and meeting the needs of emergency workers and the practitioners supporting them. Two new studies have been designed to gather insights from clinicians and emergency workers. The findings will inform future improvements to the Responder Assist, including services for emergency worker patients and training offered to clinicians.


The first study is talking to mental health clinicians in the specialist network or community of practice to gain their views on what they need to effectively provide treatments that are sensitive to the experiences and issues face by emergency workers.

We will speak to clinicians who have treated emergency workers before and ask them what went well and where it might have been beneficial to have more skills or training. The research will give us a better understanding of the needs of clinicians and if we identify any gaps in training we can then adapt or develop the training that Responder Assist provides,” says Dr Tracey Varker, Senior Research Fellow at Phoenix Australia.


“We think there might be things to be learned around the culture of the emergency services and the language that not all clinicians will be familiar with. If a clinician is better versed in those things, it might make it easier to engage emergency workers in therapy because the patient feels the clinician understands them and their unique work experiences.”


A second study will ask emergency workers using Responder Assist for their views on the service and treatment they receive. Interviews will be done via phone or Zoom and the information provided by interviewees will be used to help improve the service for other emergency service workers.


“We want to understand how we can provide mental health treatment that best suits the needs of emergency service workers,” says Dr Varker.


“We want to find out how they accessed treatment and whether it was hard or difficult. We’d like to know how well they think their therapist understood them and their culture and how easy it was to communicate with their therapist – did they feel understood?”


Researchers will also ask permission to access each interviewee’s treatment data to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the service they received.


“That will allow us to make sure we provide the best service and therapy possible for them and for people who will use the service in the future,” says Dr Varker.


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