A Pilot Program Evaluation for a Backcountry Search and Rescue Stress Injury Awareness Course

William Mundo MD, MPH 1, , Zachary Ryan MS2 , Paul Cook PhD3 , & Laura McGladrey PMHNP, FAWM4
1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, CO, USA
2 Eldora Ski Patrol, Eldora Mountain Resort, Nederland, CO, USA
3 College of Nursing, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA
Email: william.mundo@cuanschutz.edu



This project was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a stress awareness pilot program in reducing stress and burnout among Backcountry search and rescue (BSAR) volunteers. BSAR volunteers in Colorado experience taxing work demands with routine exposures to stressors. There are limited interventions available for preventing and reducing burnout among BSAR volunteers. We conducted a program evaluation using secondary data from a Wellness and Stress Awareness Pilot course conducted between July 2021 and December 2021. The survey included 65 questions to assess participants’ understanding of stress injuries and level of stress and burnout across Colorado BSAR groups including the Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado Plateau, and Middle Rocky Mountains. BSAR volunteers reported increased capacity to cope with stress after participating in the program, improving on all target learning objectives (P < .001). The percentage of BSAR volunteers who rated their current level of burnout as either high or very high dropped from 27% to 20% after participation in the course. Wellness and stress prevention programs may help raise awareness about chronic stress and reduce burnout among BSAR volunteers. These programs are needed to identify and prevent burnout and stress injuries among the BSAR community.

KEY WORDS: mental health, burnout, operational stress injury, PTSD, Acute Stress Disorder, stress continuum

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