Holding the Line
Implementing reintegration for first responders
April 27, 2023 By Michelle Vincent
Reintegration is a word commonly used as a component to assist a person in functioning at their best in their environment. The Oxford dictionary describes reintegration as, “the action or process of restoring elements regarded as disparate to unity”. This is an important to focus on in a first responder environment regime, and the opportunity for its infusion exists in every aspect of mental health care.
In my Oct. 2022 column, we explored the impactful, and now widely used, Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Reintegration After Critical Incident and Long-Term Leave programming. While participating in various research projects involving reintegration programming for public safety personnel, I noticed its ability to be infused in both preventative and reactive experiences. EPS has been clear on the program’s potential in most workspaces with various modifications to support what’s necessary, both preventatively and reactively, to effectively reintegrate its members.
In today’s world, there are a variety of situations that would benefit from workplace reintegration. Let’s explore each of the areas where workplace reintegration would be beneficial for an organization. It could be:
- Preventative – in an annual requalification.
- Current/active – in the critical incident scenarios we attend, where we could benefit from a light reintegrative theme, or an organizational stressor that may have been identified.
- Reactive – a major critical incident and/or long-term (or short term) leave for a member, and now they’re returning to work.
You might already know that I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, and I will always sing the praises of the EPS Reintegration program because of its flexibility and ability to morph into whatever the situation/member requires. There are so many components of the program that can be used for specific situations and, when peers are formally trained by EPS or approved EPS trainers, make its opportunity for use endless.
Reintegration is key in supporting members and having them feel valued.
An example of a preventative reintegration component that could be added to an annual requalification might look like a reintegrative debrief from a scenario in training. Having a mini mock-reintegration with members may provide reassurance that if they are involved in a similar, potentially serious scenario, a reintegration might be welcomed rather than feared or seen as an unknown. This is a very vaguely described application and would need to be properly devised to be effective and safe.
When exploring the active situation, whether it be a minor critical incident or perhaps a workplace/organizational stressor—such as a challenging relational dynamic exchange between members/supervisors/units—a reintegrative-themed exercise could be beneficial in supporting an understanding and maybe even a resolution. Practice, or training as we say in policing, is key in ensuring our reactions to circumstances become more innate and creating an opportunity for our minds to become automatic in directing our thinking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as members, automatically turned to a reintegrative thought process in our moments of strife, stress and/or challenge? What a healthy and clear-minded approach this could potentially be.
When looking at a major critical incident, a long-term or short-term leave from work whereby potential moral injury of any kind was experienced, the more comprehensive approach of the EPS reintegration program might be applicable. This would be delivered by intentionally selected peers who are trusted by all and appreciated for their ability to connect, and members would have that opportunity to support a healthy return to work.
It’s important to remember that any training, exercise or informative session through the reintegrative lens can be adapted to any workplace role for any member. For example, if we wanted to support a reintegration for a call-taker, dispatcher or special constable, the program would be modified to support those members. Any specialty unit could customize their reintegrative program to fit their training and skillset, which could be a cost-effective way of ensuring that those trained in one of the specialty units can return to work when they’re ready. Reintegration is key in supporting members and having them feel valued, regardless of a mental health setback or critical incident experience. A true opportunity for organizations everywhere.
Michelle Vincent PhD/MACP is a retired officer and the founder of The Haven, Ontario’s first non-profit, inpatient treatment centre exclusive to first responders and uniform personnel. Contact her at email@example.com.
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