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Implementation of Online Suicide-Specific Training for VA Providers



Due to the gap in suicide-specific intervention training for mental health students and professionals, e-learning is one solution to improving provider skills in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system. This study focused on the development and evaluation of an equivalent e-learning alternative to the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) in-person training approach at a Veteran Health Affairs medical center.


The study used a multicenter, randomized, cluster, and three group design. the development of e-CAMS was an iterative process and included pilot testing. Eligible and consenting mental health providers, who completed a CAMS pre-survey, were randomized. Provider satisfaction was assessed using the standard VA evaluation of training consisting of 20 items. Two post training focus groups, divided by learning conditions, were conducted to assess practice adoption using a protocol focused on experiences with training and delivery of CAMS.


A total of 215 providers in five sites were randomized to three conditions: 69 to e-learning, 70 to in-person, 76 to the control. The providers were primarily female, Caucasian, midlife providers. Based on frequency scores of satisfaction items, both learning groups rated the trainings positively. In focus groups representing divided by learning conditions, participants described positive reactions to CAMS training and similar individual and institutional barriers to full implementation of CAMS.


This is the first evaluation study of a suicide-specific e-learning training within the VA. The e-CAMS appears equivalent to the in-person CAMS in terms of provider satisfaction with training and practice adoption, consistent with other comparisons of training deliveries across specialty areas. Additional evaluation of provider confidence and adoption and patient outcomes is in progress. The e-CAMS has the potential to provide ongoing training for VA and military mental health providers and serve as a tutorial for psychiatrists in preparation for specialty boards.

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We want to acknowledge the actors and script authors: Keith Jennings, Catholic University of America; Delia Chariker, VA SATC Addictioin Therapist; David Koerner, VA Social Worker; Denise O'Neil, VA SATC Therapist; Jeff Walker, Veteran, Jonathan Coutas, Medical University of South Carolina Videographer, and Dan Gross, VA Psychologist.


This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration. Office of Research and Development. Health Services Research and Development. The study was approved by the joint University and VA IRB site and VA office of Research in the primary site and VA IRBs of the four satellite sites.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Marshall.

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Marshall, E., York, J., Magruder, K. et al. Implementation of Online Suicide-Specific Training for VA Providers. Acad Psychiatry 38, 566–574 (2014).

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  • Suicide
  • Intervention training
  • Mental health students
  • Mental health residents
  • Veteran Health Affairs medical center