New trauma studies certificate will help range of caregivers

SUNY Oswego will offer a trauma studies certificate program designed to serve a wide range of health care workers who encounter people emotionally shocked by war, disaster, abuse or other stressors.

The 15-credit-hour sequence will be available to students in the college’s existing graduate degree program in mental health counseling and to licensed mental health professionals, but also will provide foundational expertise to nurses, social workers, veterans’ caregivers, police and firefighters, EMTs, Red Cross and other disaster relief workers, crisis center personnel, funeral home directors and medical examiners.

“We designed a program that is constructed to give people in a wide variety of professions and services a better understanding of trauma,” said David King, dean of graduate studies at SUNY Oswego.

Karen Wolford speaking with studentsThe certificate would educate caregivers about “the nature of trauma, the expected response to trauma and would enable them to identify which areas of expertise in the community to direct trauma survivors to,” said Karen Wolford, chair and professor of psychology. “It would enable them to better work with families and provide them with better support, which is really important when you’re working with trauma.”

Coursework would build skills in psychological first aid; the neurobiology, context and meaning of trauma and loss; knowledge of trauma treatment and resources for special populations such as veterans, children and women; basic public health policy analysis; and emergency and disaster planning. Students in the program can take courses in trauma and loss, ethnocultural aspects of trauma, military trauma and compassion fatigue—or how to care for themselves as they assist with natural disasters, accidents and more. They also would have a graduate field placement to observe professionals at work.

Employment opportunities

“Completion of this certificate should enhance employability in medical centers and health clinics and various agencies that work with trauma-affected populations, including shelters, prisons, emergency response centers and more,” Wolford noted.

Wolford said she and her colleagues in psychology and the department of counseling and psychological services have developed a variety of courses dealing with trauma.

In January 2011, the one-year anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake, students in the course on ethnocultural aspects of trauma traveled to the island nation to work with caregivers there. Last month, SUNY Oswego hosted a National Science Foundation-funded collaborative program with Syracuse University for undergraduate veterans who want to attend graduate school for trauma research to assist their fellow veterans.

The trauma sequence interests Katherine Harris and Dan McManus, both enrolled in Oswego’s 60-credit-hour graduate degree program in mental health counseling. “Dr. Wolford interested me in trauma when we studied about it and traveled to Haiti,” said Harris, a 2011 psychology graduate of SUNY Oswego and now a graduate intern assisting a private practice that deals with trauma. “I realized just how much of a need there is for trauma care and how much (the certificate program) could help my growth and my experience for the job market.”

McManus, who just started the graduate program after receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology from Oswego in May, said a surgical accident left him with chronic pain. “Many people have no knowledge of pain as trauma,” McManus said. “I want to use my experience to help other people.”

‘Critical need’

The SUNY Oswego Metro Center will host some courses, as will the main campus in Oswego. Some courses will be offered online. King noted that he, Yvonne Petrella of the college’s Division of Extended Learning and others have worked for years to identify ways the college can better equip the region’s workforce in growing occupational sectors such as health care.

King said representatives of Upstate Medical University, Onondaga Medical Society, Oswego Hospital, Central New York Health Collaborative, the North Country and Fort Drum health consortiums, medical examiners offices, crisis centers, nursing homes and others have helped the college identify areas of “critical need” that have led to graduate certificate programs in gerontology, play therapy, health information technology, integrated health systems and, now, trauma studies.

“There was a gap there where people who came in contact with various types of trauma had no training in or understanding of it,” King said. “They need to know the psychological underpinnings of what people are experiencing.”

For more information, contact the SUNY Oswego Division of Graduate Studies at gradstudies@oswego.edu or 315-312-3152. Update 8/12: Or see oswego.edu/academics/graduate/programs/trauma_studies.html#.

PHOTO CAPTION: Trauma studies—Karen Wolford, center, chair of SUNY Oswego’s psychology department, talks with graduate students Dan McManus, left, and Katherine Harris about the college’s new graduate certificate in trauma studies, available to a wide range of caregivers who encounter trauma.

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(Posted: Jul 18, 2012)

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