Karen Burgess RPN BScPN BA
Karen is a clinical nurse specialist in the Mental Health Program and the clinical director for the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. She’s a registered psychiatric nurse who graduated from Brandon University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing in 2002. The most considerable portion of her career has been working as a nurse therapist with the Adult Eating Disorders Program at HSC. Other roles have included acute inpatient psych nursing, child and adolescent day hospital, consultation-liaison mental health nursing, and clinical nurse educator.
She is midway through her graduate studies at Brandon University, where she is pursuing her Masters of Psychiatric Nursing. Her clinical and research interests lie in critical incident stress and the variety of resources and interventions available to reduce the impact of critical incidents on health care providers. As the clinical director of the CISM program at HSC, she is responsible for training CISM team members, overseeing the interventions and practices of the team, coordinating responses at HSC, providing guidance and mentorship to other teams, and providing education and presentations to a variety of clinical groups, units, and programs.
Karen Burgess, Director of the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, joined us this evening to share the impact of COVID-19 through a CISM lens. She describes symptoms of critical incident stress and shares holistic approaches including psychological first aid to manage prolonged critical incident stress exposure and help health care providers.
Karen started things off with this quote from Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others author Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, “We often assume that our very status as helpers grants us immunity from the suffering we witness. We are often wrong.” Nurses are very good at teaching and sharing strategies with patients and communities to support their coping, and sometimes less diligent in putting those same strategies to use in our own lives.
It is important to differentiate between the patient safety definition of a critical incident and the CISM definition of a critical incident. Patient safety experts would define a critical incident in terms of harm to a patient whereas in the CISM world a critical incident is an unusual event that causes an extreme response and overwhelms people’s usual coping mechanisms either at the time or later.
Karen reviewed Hans Selye’s Stress Theories & General Adaptation and described different types of stressful events nurses may be exposed to in our work and non-work lives such as cumulative stress, multiple incident stress, and prolonged incident stress. Then she shared symptoms of stress and a bit about the Crisis Intervention Theory underlying psychological first aid. The goals of psychological first aid are to create and sustain an environment of safety, calm, comfort, connectedness, self-empowerment and hope and to address basic needs and reduce psychological distress by providing a caring, comforting presence, and education on common stress reactions. To finish up her presentation Karen outlined some quick skills, shared some useful questions and tips for validating emotions and then recommended nurses familiarize ourselves with the Shared Health COVID-19 Mental Health resources page and in particular the printable pocket card.
Question and answer