Stress First Aid

Health care employees work under considerable stress, especially now. The executive division of the National Center for PTSD at the White River Junction, Vermont, Veterans Administration Medical Center, an affiliate of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has developed a program called Stress First Aid (SFA) that has been shown to improve recovery from stress reactions.

SFA’s evidence-based peer support and self-care intervention is now being modified for health care institutions throughout the country. We are excited to provide employees a Stress First Aid 2-part video series (each approximately 8 to 10 minutes long) that introduces the SFA model.

Stress First Aid: Video 1

Presenters: Mary K. Jankowski, PhD, Director of Psychology Services, Department of Psychiatry and Sivan Rotenberg, PhD, Director of Embedded Services, Department of Psychiatry


Stress First Aid: Video 2

Presenters: Sivan Rotenberg, PhD, Director of Embedded Services, Department of Psychiatry


The SFA model normalizes reactions to stress and destigmatizes reaching out for support. It shows how stress responses lie along a continuum of severity and how stress injuries (for example, moral injury, loss, or chronic stress) may move a person along the continuum.

SFA introduces behaviors and actions individuals can engage in to improve their well-being based on self-assessment of their current state of stress. These behaviors are based on research that shows that people tend to do better when they feel safe, are able to calm themselves, feel connected to others, believe they can get through their challenges, and have a sense of hope.

The goal is to decrease stigma around stress and promote a culture of well-being while providing a common language that can be used when discussing stress and stress reactions. Additionally, the SFA videos aim to increase resilience among employees, helping them develop strategies that can promote longevity on the job, including:

  • Decreased negative stress reactions
  • Increased sense of self-efficacy in coping with stress
  • Increased sense of being cared for by leadership
  • Increased satisfaction with leadership
  • Increased sense of wellness

Additional Stress First Aid resources

Dartmouth Health will soon offer a training webinar for leaders on how to use the SFA model with their teams.

We encourage employees to contact the Employee Assistance Program or the local Peer Support Program for additional support.