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October 25, 2023

Creating an Environment for Post-Incident Support

Creating opportunities for individuals and professionals to share their different perspectives.

When incidents occur, whether in a school or other health and social care setting, it can feel immensely destabilising and upsetting for everyone involved. Emotions run high and it may take some time for all parties to decompress and recover afterwards.

However, once the incident has passed and the dust has settled, the most important thing to do is initiate the repair and restoration process. And to do that, we need to create the right post-incident environment for both the individual and for any staff involved.

A values-based approach

The underlying principle of a positive workplace culture is that we value the individuals we care for and work with, and everything we do is rooted in respect and dignity. During and after moments of crisis, we need to keep this core belief front and centre, to ensure our values are reflected in the post-incident support we provide.

What does that look like in reality? It means adopting a person-centric approach where we prioritise and validate people’s feelings; it means providing opportunities for individuals and professionals to share their different perspectives, without judgement, shame or blame; it means actively listening and learning to better understand what led to the incident so it can be avoided in the future; and it means repairing and maintaining strong relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

Obstacles to the process of repair

There’s no doubt that we are all, as professionals, committed to creating the conditions which facilitate the repair and restoration process. We endeavour to strike the balance between formal and structured, and informal and relaxed in our approach to post-incident support. Most importantly, perhaps, we strive to repair relationships that may have been adversely affected by the incident.

However, constraints on time, space and resources can present a real challenge to effective and desirable post-incident support. Often, despite everyone’s best intentions, the process can fall somewhat short. For example, sometimes the physical environment (such as a formal meeting room) inhibits relaxed, comfortable discussions; or maybe there are endless lists of questions to answer that are difficult to communicate and that do not serve the needs of the participants; or perhaps, because of a lack of time, the process is rushed, and those involved do not feel they have had adequate opportunity to be heard.

While all of these factors are entirely understandable, they can hinder us from creating the right environment for post-incident support.

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