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Online Learning Program Reduced PTSD Symptoms in Police Staff

A study that looked at the results of an online learning fatigue management system on Seattle Police Department employees found that PTSD symptoms, as well as rates of depression and anxiety, were reduced by the training.

two Seattle police officers on motorcycles
We know policing is stressful just by virtue of what law enforcement officers see on a regular basis. It takes its toll. But the job also means long hours and long shifts that can lead to fatigue, an enemy to making life-or-death snap decisions.

A study conducted by the Washington State University College of Nursing on Seattle Police Department employees found that an online learning fatigue management program significantly improved the sleep of law enforcement employees and reduced the severity of PTSD symptoms.

The training consisted of an eight-week, modular online training program for 1,300 employees, 75 percent of them officers and 25 percent civilian staff. The employees worked varied shifts, including night, day and evening shifts.

The study used random control design and previously validated tools to measure the quality of sleep, sleepiness, depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms. The improvement in sleep duration, about 18 minutes more sleep per 24 hours, reduced the PTSD symptoms.

“The training that we developed, implemented and evaluated can reverse problems that arise as a result of police fatigue, reducing the number of employees who are on sick leave or out due to injury and closing the understaffing gap so the community gets the services it needs,” Loren Atherley, senior director of performance analytics and research at the Seattle Police Department, said in a statement.

Authors of the study suggested that the reduction in PTSD symptoms may have been the result of breathing and meditation modules. There were also reductions in rates of depression and anxiety.

“Our study is the first to document the effectiveness of a fatigue-training intervention in promoting police employee sleep, mental health, well-being and safety using a randomized control design,” Stephen James, assistant professor in WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, said in a press release. “Amid calls for defending police, departmental staffing and police burnout, our results suggest it would be wise to explore adopting fatigue management programs for police nationwide.”