The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about stress and uncertainty in personal and professional lives. Prior to the pandemic, when athletic trainers were stressed and needing someone to talk to, ATs Care was there. As NATA’s peer-support program, ATs would connect with a local member trained in peer-support/critical incident stress management to help to help the AT process his/her psychological response, often meeting face to face.
As the pandemic progressed, more people were in need of ATs Care services, but meeting face to face was not possible, considering national and local social distancing guidelines. That is how the ATs Care Commission got the idea to host call-in events where multiple ATs could receive crisis intervention at once.
“The call-in nights are Zoom meeting sessions we established to provide members with opportunities to come in and discuss their reactions, emotions and psychological responses to how COVID-19 has affected them,” said ATs Care Commission Chair Dave Middlemas, EdD, ATC, CCISM.
The ATs Care Commission has a district representative in each of the 10 NATA districts, and all are trained in individual and group crisis intervention. For each district of NATA, Middlemas said, ATs Care scheduled virtual meetings that members could register for.
The calls took place over a two-week period in May and June. Each district hosted two call-in events throughout this time, so ATs Care hosted 20 calls in total that equated to more than 180 hours of volunteer service, not counting the time it took to plan the calls. More than 300 members registered to participate in these call ins.
There has been a 198 percent increase in ATs Care service requests since March, the commission reported. Thirty-six percent of those requests are directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, ATs Care felt creating a mass-effort support was needed. The group was challenged with not using in-person services; however, they got creative and came up with these virtual call-in nights so that they could continue to support the membership during this difficult time.
Working with a crisis intervention model, the commission created an outline of topics to follow when hosting these events; however, the ATs who called in were the most important part of the discussion.
“The way the model works primarily is that after we introduce why are we here, the purpose of the call; how they are responding and reacting to stressors and changes in their life from the pandemic, then there would be some questioning to get people to discuss the things going on in their personal and professional lives affecting them the most and how they are responding to them,” Middlemas said.
“Then it turns into what they are doing to take care of themselves and those around you as well as what kind of crisis management tools they could use. Next, we move into self-help and peer support educational component to get back to a normal function. During this, the group is talking to each other and feeding off each other for ideas.”
The calls were not limited to any certain topic as attendees were dealing with stress differently as well as living their individual lives, but there were some common themes throughout the groups that Middlemas noted.
“When you look at what’s going on in the world, people obviously are concerned about a lack of information,” Middlemas said. “There are issues with lack of control of what’s going on in the world and workplace. There are isolation problems because people are not in their normal network socially. There are concerns with job stability, job suspension, furloughs, layoffs, all the changes and how they affect their children, how to teach at home and financial issues.”
Because meeting with athletic trainers experiencing a stressful incident in-person was not always possible during the pandemic, the commission still wanted to provide services to those who need it despite social distancing. The success of the calls and positive feedback proves that even when in a quarantine, ATs are still there for one another.
“I think the best part of the call ins were that people realized they aren’t the only ones dealing with these issues, and there is an avenue to reach out to someone to just help process things,” Middlemas said. “The term social distancing does not accurately describe what we are asked to do. With the electronic tools, online meetings, FaceTime, telephone, social media, you can interact with people, but we are asked to physically stay apart. The social distancing is meaning to stay physically away from someone – not don’t interact with people.
“I think overall the call ins were very successful. The impact we had was very good, and I’m excited about the things that could come in the future from it because people need to get things off their chest.”
If you need support, whether it is athletic training- or non-athletic training-related issues or personal or professional ones, reach out to ATs Care by calling 972-532-8821 or emailing ATsCare@nata.org. A team member will reach out within 48 hours of receiving the request.