DOI: 10.4085/1947-380x-22-077 ISSN: 1947-380X

Athletic Training Students’ Preparation and Perception of Resources Available to Them Following a Critical Incident

Julie A. Wonch, Jamie L. Mansell, Zachary K. Winkelmann, Lindsey E. Eberman, Elizabeth R. Neil
  • General Chemical Engineering


Although catastrophic injuries are rare, athletic trainers must be ready for emergencies. It is unknown how athletic training students (ATSs) are prepared for postcritical incident management.


To explore the perceived availability and helpfulness of resources available to ATSs after critical incidents.




Individual interviews.

Patients or Other Participants

Eleven current ATSs and/or recent graduates (5 women, 4 men, and 2 prefer to not share; age = 24 ± 4 years) who experienced a critical incident during clinical education.

Data Collection and Analysis

We used criterion sampling for recruiting participants in multiple modes until data saturation was achieved. Participants completed demographic surveys and participated in semistructured interviews regarding their involvement, resources available after the incident, and perceived helpfulness of the resources. All transcripts were deidentified and coded by a 3-person team following the consensual qualitative research tradition. Member checking, triangulation, external auditing, and peer discussion among researchers established credibility and trustworthiness for the analysis.


Three domains emerged

strategies acquired before the incident, management during the incident, and postincident regulation of a review of the resources that had been available. In strategies acquired before the incident, participants described that program preparation, previous personal/clinical experiences, and self-regulating mental health strategies all assisted in managing emotions after the incident. During the incident and the time immediately after, participants discussed managing emotions with formal debriefing, sound policies and procedures, and communication with athletic training faculty and peers. After the incident, some noted that they had an abundance of resources available to them during the critical incident, whereas others noted feeling isolated.


ATSs have resources available to them and an awareness of the impact critical incidents have on mental well-being. They relied on convenient coping mechanisms (eg, peers, preceptors, or faculty debrief) rather than formal counseling. Athletic training programs should provide students with resources and support before and after incidents.

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