Purpose: Experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury is a critical incident and produces serious emotional responses. Athletic trainers (ATs) experience critical incidents in their day-to-day work. The purpose of this study was to explore how ATs experience a critical incident during the course of clinical practice. Methods: We used one-on-one, web-based, semi-structured interviewing with a criterion sample of ATs who experienced a critical incident and used any critical incident response resources in the last year (n=17; age=32±8; years of experience=9±7; years in current position=4±5). We used a 3-person team with a multi-phase process to identify the emerging domains and categories. Results: Two emergent domains were identified from the study. External support referenced multiple personnel resources available after a critical incident occurred, specifically, trained mental health professionals, untrained personnel, and trusted colleagues/coworkers. Coping with the emotional response included debriefing, spirituality, and complementary mental health strategies. Conclusion: In preparation for critical incidents, emergency action planning and after-action planning for healthcare delivery and the emotional response are both essential. Many ATs do not have the formal training, but continuing education courses, community-based mental health resources, and the promotion of professional organization resources can assist ATs in critical incident management.

Author Bio(s)

Karen Holmes DAT, LAT, ATC is a graduate of the Indiana State University Doctor of Athletic Training program and currently an athletic trainer with Beacon Hospital in South Bend, Indiana.

Elizabeth Neil PhD, LAT, ATC is an Assistant Professor of Instruction and Clinical Education Coordinator with the Professional and Post-Professional Masters Degree Programs at Temple University.

Kelcey Granger MS, LAT, ATC is an athletic trainer in Muncie, Indiana and pursuing her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Athletic Training Education at Indiana State University.

Lindsey Eberman PhD, LAT, ATC is an athletic trainer, Professor, and Program Director in the Doctor of Athletic Training Program at Indiana State University.




Submission Location


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