St Vincent’s Support Team Action Response (STAR) Program

What is STAR?
A team of St Vincent’s staff, from many disciplines and occupations, trained to help you manage stress. STAR is St Vincent’s Critical Incident Stress Management peer support program.  STAR (Support Team Action Response) members are available at St Vincent’s 24 hours a day as a first line link to psychological first aid and support.

Critical incidents and healthcare
Delivering healthcare brings many emotional demands.  People working in health usually manage the impact of stressful events well, but sometimes they need assistance.

People react to crisis differently. They don’t always know what’s happening to them. Stress as a response to a traumatic event or critical incident can strike anyone, regardless of experience, often when they least expect it.

Any incident has the capacity to affect an employee.  It does not have to be a major disaster. Often it is the combination of accumulated stress and the incident itself that causes an unusually strong emotional response.

20th anniversary
The STAR program was established in 1997 to assist participants to cope with stress and anxiety, stay connected with work both physically and emotionally following a stressful event, make employees feel valued by the organisation and assist employees to seek professional assistance if required.

From humble beginnings, STAR has expanded over the past 20 years to be a widely accessed program and is staffed by 100 volunteers and supports 1,000 colleagues per year. It has built a reputation as Australia’s leading peer support program in the health industry.

Marking 20th anniversary of the STAR Program
Marking 20th anniversary of the STAR Program

What should I expect?
Critical incidents are usually unexpected and may involve a threat to life or welfare. Under these circumstances it is normal to have an intense reaction, even if you were only indirectly involved.

The impact of stressful and traumatic events will evoke a wide range of physical, emotional and cognitive reactions. Stress responses are normal reactions to critical events. It is how they are dealt with that matters.

How does STAR work?
A STAR member may be able to help if you feel you want to talk to someone who understands, someone you can trust and someone familiar with strategies in managing workplace stress or the demands of your personal life.

When should I seek help?
You may wish to seek help if you are experiencing some or all of the following:

  • you need to talk about an event
  • you are experiencing intense reactions or feelings
  • you are worried by physical symptoms
  • your feelings continue to be numb or overactive
  • you continue to have disturbed sleep or nightmares
  • your relationships or family life are affected.

Reactions to trauma or loss can often be more intense and last longer than people expect. Being able to talk to someone may prevent future problems and help you to feel in control again.

The role of the STAR team member

STARs are available 24 hours a day:

  • to listen to and support staff on a one-to-one basis
  • to provide staff with information about critical incident stress management and other services
  • to facilitate confidential group interventions.

Individual members can be found on a list in your workplace or on the St Vincent’s intranet. STARs are not trained to provide ongoing counselling or therapy.

They can refer staff to professional counsellors in consultation with the person seeking help.

Confidentiality will be strictly maintained. Exceptions will only be made if both the STAR team member and the person seeking help agree, or if there is a clear and imminent threat to life.

What is STAR’s mission?
STAR functions within the context of the mission and values of St Vincent’s. STAR operates on a voluntary basis to support staff, in conjunction with other St Vincent’s services.

STAR achievements

  • offers the best of many models of employee assistance
  • draws on the latest research
  • is based on an accredited and internationally recognised Critical Incident Stress Management

The STAR program was a recipient of a St Vincent’s Health Australia Innovation and Excellence award in 2016, and was also highly commended in the Innovation in Workforce Design category in the 2006 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards. Also in 2016, the STAR program was a Finalist in the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards, for Improving Workforce Wellbeing and Safety.

Jacqueline Bloink receives recognition for her contributions to the STAR Program
Jacqueline Bloink receives recognition for her contributions to the STAR Program
Tiffany Plummer receives recognition for her contributions to the STAR Program
Tiffany Plummer receives recognition for her contributions to the STAR Program

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