A volunteer crew member at Lough Derg RNLI has become a RNLI Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) practitioner.
The RNLI, mindful of the potential psychological effects of attending traumatic or distressing call outs, initiated a Trauma Risk Management Programme in 2016. The programme evolved from a Stress Trauma Project in the UK Royal Marines and aims to provide support and assistance for volunteers who wish to access it. The programme is completely voluntary and confidential.
Currently there are 60 TRiM practitioners within the RNLI, one of whom is Lough Derg RNLI crew member, Chris Parker.
Chris, who graduated as a practitioner in April said: ‘I am proud to be able to help fellow volunteers. Sometimes, we run towards the bad stuff, and it can take its toll. As a crew member, I want to be there for the members of the public when they are in difficulty, but as a practitioner, I want to be there for my fellow volunteer crew members in the RNLI who may be having their worst day too’.
At the heart of research and development within the RNLI is the safety and wellbeing of the volunteers who crew the lifeboats. With donations and legacies from the public, the charity provides the latest and safest kit so that crew operating in the toughest conditions, have every confidence in the equipment they are using.
As a frontline volunteer emergency service, crew encounter scenarios and casualty injuries they may never confront in their day jobs. The RNLI Casualty Care courses teach crew how to manage emergencies on the water, and how to minimise further injury before casualties are transferred to the care of paramedics on shore. And whilst their training and proficiency allows crew to manage each scenario, volunteers respond differently to the reality of what they’ve encountered.
RNLI volunteers hail from a wide variety of backgrounds and careers. Chris has a most poetic sounding job as a Cloud architect, which sees him work on major computer incidents throughout Europe: ‘If a large company stops working or a cyber attack takes place, chances are I will get a phone call or an email.’
Chris joined the lifeboat crew two and a half years ago, shortly after moving to the area with his family. Now a qualified lifeboat crew member, Chris is also Lough Derg RNLI’s Health, Safety and Environmental Local Liaison.
In most instances following traumatic events, crew will resolve any negative feelings over time, but, Chris says, ‘TRiM is there to support our staff and volunteers from an early stage, to offer peer support. To those that require professional help, the TRiM practitioners have the knowledge and training to signpost those services and support’.
All training for frontline staff or volunteers is provided by the RNLI through its partner March on Stress. Chris says that to retain practitioner status, he must meet professional standards through continuous training. He says the initial two-day intensive course covered active listening skills, mentoring, education and risk assessment.
The RNLI, as an organisation devoted to saving lives at sea, is inherently aware of how traumatic rescue operations can affect volunteer crew. Through the introduction of TRiM, the RNLI provides a vital and coordinated support structure to ensure the wellbeing of its volunteers.