The organizers did immediate post-activity evaluations and followed up with a six- to 12-month post-activity survey. As Grissom points out, they knew that a one-day course wouldn’t make participants accomplished cognitive behavioral therapists—the point was more to provide an introduction to PTSD and TBI for returning military personnel, and to show how to get more detailed military-specific training on the topic.
The results showed that it helped build awareness of the signature characteristics of the PTSD and TBI that service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from—83 percent said they gained new strategies in the immediate post-activity evaluation. More than half said they planned to implement those new strategies. In the follow-up survey, which got a 39 percent response rate, 38 percent said they used screening tools for PTSD more than they had previously, and 23 percent said they used TBI screening tools more often.
Getting physical and behavioral healthcare providers to ask new patients if they have a military deployment history sounds simple, but it’s important, says Grissom. If they don’t know someone was exposed to an IED blast while deployed, HCPs may not connect nonspecific issues such as sleep, anger management problems, and headaches to a PTSD or TBI diagnosis.
Twenty-nine percent also said in the follow-up survey that they had changed their referral habits, including more referrals for medical testing, and more referrals to neuro and for brain MRIs. Among the strategies they reported implementing post-symposium were asking clients about their military background and if they had been injured in ways that could cause TBI (41 percent); improving their assessment of PTSD/TBI co-morbidities (32 percent); screening for blows to the head and consulting with spouses and partners about behavior issues (32 percent); using behavioral techniques for dealing with troubling dreams (29 percent); increased use of TBI and PTSD assessment tools (27 percent), and treating nightmares (23 percent).