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Northeast offers training to first responders to overcome emotional distress

Northeast offers training to first responders to overcome emotional distress

NORFOLK, Neb. – Many individuals on the front lines of providing care to others during the COVID-19 crisis are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, and other strong emotions. During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that it is critical that these individuals recognize what stress looks like, take steps to build their resilience and cope with stress, and know where to go if they need help.

Northeast Community College has created approaches to address these emotions through a three-part series that is catered to first responders and those in helping professions as they deal with the emotional pressure of their jobs and working during a pandemic.

“Our ‘Compassion Fatigue’ series has been designed as one-hour webinars that are being offered free of charge to all medical first responders in our 20-county service area,” said Northeast’s Jim McCarville. “These sessions are applicable to the work of police, fire, safety, and mental health providers among other helping professions.”

Fifty-seven individuals participated in the initial sessions, led by Denis McCarville, a senior consultant at the Quality Treatment Institute in Omaha, who helped develop the course. He has over 30-years of experience in the field.

Denis McCarville guided participants through a series of questions and exercises that allowed them to, among other things, gain the ability to understand the symptoms of compassion fatigue and how it effects them and their co-workers, develop a daily activity that assists in combating compassion fatigue, and create their own personal resiliency plan to combat the syndrome. 

Jim McCarville said the programming request began when a representative from Brown County Hospital in Ainsworth contacted Northeast about training opportunities surrounding the topic.

“Shortly thereafter, the pandemic hit and conversations with other healthcare organizations made us realize that this topic was needed in a much broader scope than we originally anticipated,” he said. “At that point, we began moving quickly in order to provide this information remotely to those in our region when workers needed it most.”

In addition to Brown County Hospital, other employees participating in the series represented Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk, Rock County Hospital in Bassett, West Holt Medical Services in Atkinson, Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, SD, Good Samaritan Society, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Voices of Hope in Lincoln, Hope Crisis Center, Ponca Tribe, fire and rescue, mental health personnel from a number of agencies, children and family advocates and Northeast Community College.

Paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and first responders are eligible to earn 2.25 continuing education units (CEUs) by attending all three sessions of the “Compassion Fatigue” series. Another three-part series that will be held in July is filled to capacity as additional training dates are being considered at this time. For more information, contact Lindsay Spiegel at Northeast at or call (402) 844-7237.

“Compassion fatigue is a condition that plagues many health care workers, first responders, and other helping professions personnel and is known to many as ‘cost of caring,” said Eric Johnson, Northeast associate vice president. “I am very pleased with the work of Northeast Community College in offering this type of series to help make a difference to our frontline workers during these challenging times.”