University of Alabama Heersink School of Medicine

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SUPPORTING STUDENTS EXPERIENCES OF OUR STUDENTS Uncertainty / loss of control -day to day, and future Emotions - fear, anger, frustration; ”Why didn’t you pull me out?” and “Don’t pull me out”“What is going on?” “How will this impact me?”“I want to help but...

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Facing tragic events such as suicide or other loss, or sentinel events in the world around us, require special resources and the support of others. Learning communities are uniquely positioned to help medical schools in times of crisis because of the connectedness they foster.

The LCI has put together a list of resources, best practices and suggestions to help schools during times of stress and crisis.

We welcome feedback on these resources, or suggestions to broaden them.


 GSA-COSA Crisis Management Resource: a recently assembled broad set of resources from institutions and organizations that address things like medical emergencies, unexpected student death, political situations and natural disasters. While the focus is mostly on university and student affairs officials, there are several go-to resources that are broadly applicable.

·      COSA guidance on student support 

Lori Ungemah offers a reflection on how one LC approached an expected death  (Lori Ungemah Stella and Charles Guttman Community College).

Vanderbilt: Teaching in Times of Crisis: this article describes some approaches to acknowledging and discussing in a classroom setting crises that may be impacting the learners or learning environment.

Washington State University’s resource on social networks:


Other Considerations

Messaging: staying in communication throughout a crisis is essential; students need to be updated on specifics, resources and next steps. Reach outs from LC faculty or student leaders can also provide support and a feeling of connectedness; it is essential these messages are consistent with institutional messaging to avoid confusion. The institutional leadership may convene town halls to convey information and get immediate feedback from constituents. LCs may be a good venue for more personalized reflection and processing.

Building flexibility into your small groups: if your LC faculty teach in small groups it is important that they have the flexibility to address sentinel events as they come up. Faculty development can focus on how to broach these topics, methods for creating a space for disagreement, and ways to acknowledge emotions and experiences.

Using the knowledge of LC student and faculty leaders to help triage who may be most impacted: when crises occur it is important to know which students may be most impacted by the event or made more vulnerable by its occurrence. LC members are at times well positioned to identify such students, and it is important that reaching out be done sensitively and in a timely manner.

Interaction between LCs and school leadership: LCs can provide valuable feedback to institutional leadership about approaches to crises and events, and can also advocate for certain resources that may not have been addressed by the institution.