Field Instructor Training and Development
The field is a place of learning, challenge, and growth for clients as well as staff at Evoke. Field Instructors learn through structured training and continued professional development during their time with the company. The Field Instructor role encompasses so many different areas that there is always something new for staff to strengthen. This focus on what we can do better is not easy yet is one of the great benefits of the job and helps us provide the best possible care for clients!
Prospective Evoke Field Instructors begin their adventure with the company by attending a seven-day field orientation led by current Field Instructors. During this time, “orientees” experience field life, backpacking, and doing what groups do every day in the wilderness. Orientees practice skills like using the “I Feel” statement, shelter building, and bow drill fire making. These prospective Field Instructors are also introduced to Evoke’s policies and procedures. Throughout the orientation process, orientees practice giving and receiving feedback, the backbone of staff development at Evoke. Orientees often share how impactful the orientation experience was for them, with a big part of that impact attributed to the insightful feedback they received from both trainers and other orientees. It can be a huge growth process to go out into the wilderness with a bunch of strangers and say vulnerable things to each other, leaving the field with a special and usually long-lasting connection.
Field Instructors share feedback with other members of their staff team on a daily and bi-weekly basis. This looks like staff assertively sharing observations and perceptions from a place of care. This practice of saying “hard things” to challenge each other demonstrates a willingness to get uncomfortable, with a greater goal of helping everyone continually improve. Sometimes, we even give feedback about how others are giving feedback--so meta! I have experienced the feedback process as both scary and life changing. It can be tough to share things that someone else may not be open to hearing and it can be tough to hear things about ourselves that we may not have recognized on our own. While feedback on what we could do better is valuable, it’s equally important for us to share the strengths and skills we see each other bringing to the job. Positive feedback reinforces the great things we see each other doing! Feedback is shared in a more formal way through Field Instructors completing written evaluations for each other on a weekly basis. Each Field Instructor also works individually with one Field Director, who oversees that staff’s development through even more feedback as well as support with navigating challenges in the field.
Structured training for field instructors is provided each week as part of in-service, the shift-wide meeting we have each Tuesday. During this time, the Field Department shares reminders and updates Field Instructors on continually refined program policies. The Clinical, Medical, and other department teams present on specific topics each week in order to foster continued learning. Recent clinical presentation topics have included disordered eating, adoption, and Milan reports. Recent medical presentations have included anaphylaxis, heat injuries, and medication management. Outside of in-service, Field Instructors attend a de-escalation training twice each year to learn how to best support clients in crises.
Some Field Instructor development is self-driven. One example is the weekly SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) goals Field Instructors create in order to push themselves and inform others of what they’re working on. Focusing on our own goals helps build self-awareness and allows us to better support clients in working on their goals. I see SMART goals being most helpful when they address areas for growth, things we’re avoiding in our development, or ways we can practice self-care. SMART goals might look like practicing navigation by leading a hike, running a therapeutic group, role modeling vulnerability by “checking in” three times, leading a spoon carving clinic, and stretching each day. Staff have a variety of resources available to learn about many subjects. These resources come in the form of psychoeducational and hard skill hand outs and a large library of books, some of which the clients might be reading as well. Field Instructors are also eligible to receive financial support for professional development opportunities. These opportunities support staff in learning things they can use in the field with clients, including yoga teacher training, mindfulness and meditation training, Wilderness First Responder certification, as well as attendance at outdoor and therapeutic conferences.