Designing the Activity
The partners decided to create a one-day symposium that would be held four times in 2011 in western, central, and eastern Pennsylvania. The mainly didactic program included morning presentations on the etiology, assessment, and treatment of PTSD, followed by information on TBI screening and symptom management for the military, dealing with co-occurring TBI and PTSD, and how to help returning service members reintegrate into their families and communities. “Because we thought primary care would be our main audience, we focused on assessment and treatment,” says Bixler.
But first they had to find speakers who could address the topics in a military-specific way. As they began their research, two strategic partners rose to the top of their list: The Department of Defense Center for Deployment Psychology, and the Defense and Veteran’s Brain Injury Center. Bixler’s organization had recently had a speaker from the latter talk about TBI at Penn State’s annual Challenges in Critical Care conference, and Pepe had been involved with a program called Coping with Deployment, which included an introduction to military culture and PTSD by the Defense Center for Deployment Psychology’s deputy director, William Brim, PsyD. They tapped Brim to open the symposium with a similar PTSD overview, and DVBIC’s national director to kick off the TBI portion of the program.
The design of the activity was a group effort, stresses Bixler. Grissom adds, “We were totally in agreement with the sourcing of the speakers. Part of the core mission for both of the organizations is training healthcare providers.” Bixler adds that Health Net and the Red Cross were instrumental in providing the data demonstrating the need for this type of education in Pennsylvania to improve the screening of returning military for PTSD and mild to moderate TBI.
Grissom rounded out the day with a closing session on the resources the military and the VA make available to both returning military service men and women and those who provide care for them.