Healthcare and social service providers play a critical role in supporting children, families and communities immediately after a disaster and throughout the recovery process. These providers, who may have also experienced the disaster and related losses, are among the least likely to receive mental health or psychological support which can result in burnout, secondary traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. Accessible psychosocial interventions designed for healthcare and social service providers in the aftermath of a disaster are therefore critical to recovery and to ensure providers are available to support families after future disasters. The purpose of this article is to describe Resilience and Coping for the Healthcare Community (RCHC), a manualized group work intervention for social service and health care providers who have provided care to children, families, and communities after a natural disaster. RCHC is currently being delivered in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, storms that struck the gulf coast of the United States and the island of Puerto Rico in 2017. RCHC has also been used in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy (New York and New Jersey), in Shreveport, Louisiana following severe flooding and in Saipan after a Typhoon devastated the island. Healthcare and social service providers who have received RCHC include the staff of Federally Qualified Health Centers and other community clinics, Disaster Case Managers, Child Care Providers, Mental Health Providers and First Responders. The health and wellbeing of these providers directly impacts their ability to provide quality care to families in their communities.

This article presents the theoretical foundations of the RCHC intervention, describes the intervention in detail, provides a description of early and ongoing evaluation studies, and discusses the conditions for both implementation of RCHC and training of RCHC providers. The RCHC psychoeducational intervention provides education on, and strategies for, acute, chronic and post-traumatic stress, coping, and resilience, tailored for the needs of the helping professions. Through the use of individual and collective processing, healthcare and social service providers participating in RCHC develop both individual and collective coping plans. Considering the short and long-term impacts of disasters on communities’ essential healthcare and social service workforce, interventions like RCHC stand to provide essential benefits, including retention and wellbeing of providers of family services.

Key Take Away Points

- Healthcare and Social Service providers experience significant stress in disaster response and recovery

- There are a limited number of mental health and psychosocial support programs for healthcare and social service providers

- Resilience and Coping for the Healthcare Community is a theoretically-grounded group-work intervention currently in use in post-disaster Texas and Puerto Rico, that may be useful to address the gap in services currently available.

- Additional research is needed to develop evidence-informed strategies to support healthcare and social service providers in post-disaster settings.

Author Biography

Dr. Paula Yuma is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Colorado State University. Her work focuses on community health and well-being. Dr. Tara Powell is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Powell’s research and practice experience is in post-disaster behavioral health. Dr. Jennifer Scott is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Louisiana State University. Her research focuses on the experiences of people in poverty and immigrants in navigating their economic and social lives, as well as on the broader trends and sociopolitical determinants of poverty, inequality and migration. Mara Vinton is an MSW student at Colorado State University.


We acknowledge Americares for funding this intervention and related studies.