Feb. 28, 2022

UCalgary Nursing faculty member funded to support first responders’ mental health

Linda Duffett-Leger receives over $200,000 from Alberta government to develop program to help health-care workers manage post-traumatic stress injuries
Linda Duffett-Leger.
Linda Duffett-Leger.

UCalgary Nursing’s Dr. Linda Duffett-Leger, RN, PhD, is one of two researchers from this university to receive funding from the Alberta government to improve mental health supports across the province for first responders and emergency health-care workers. According to Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, from 2015 to 2019, there were 685 Workers’ Compensation Board claims costing $104 million for first responders related to post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI). 

The Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders program will offer services including peer support and resilience training for workers and caregivers to deal with or prevent PTSI among public safety personnel (PSP) as well as applied research to develop and evaluate the most effective treatment programs and services.  

“We are developing a platform to deliver psychoeducational programs virtually to PSP and their spouses that includes the integration of wearable technologies (smartwatch and smartphone mobile applications) to help them monitor and manage their stress levels," explains Duffett-Leger, associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing.

Linda Duffett-Leger at Feb. 18 grant announcement and visit

From left, Dr. Linda Duffett-Leger (Faculty of Nursing), Dr. Bonnie Lashewicz (O’Brien Institute for Public Health), Minister Tyler Shandro, Alberta Labour and Immigration and Dr. Mohammad Moshirpour (Schulich School of Engineering).

Duffett-Leger is a certified user-experience designer and her program of research focuses on the co-design of technologies to optimize health and educational outcomes. In 2021, she was named a Peak Scholar for COVID-19 Innovation Excellence for her work developing the VID-KIDS program for virtual delivery as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

VID-KIDS is a successful parent education program for mothers coping with post-partum depression, developed by Dr. Nicole Letourneau, RN, PhD, and a professor at UCalgary Nursing, and delivered by RNs in one-on-one home visits. The video-based intervention was paused by the pandemic, creating a need for a fully integrated, secure and user-friendly, web- and mobile-based virtual delivery system to provide the evidence-based program to vulnerable families conveniently and safely in their own homes. 

“The silver lining to this pandemic is that it opened up the opportunity to spread and scale VID-KIDS to many more mums, particularly in those rural and remote areas,” says Duffett-Leger. 

This is one of several projects Duffett-Leger is leading in collaboration with software engineering researchers from the Schulich School of Engineering. The unique team is currently working on the development of Ignitingale, a teaching and learning technology to enhance student engagement and knowledge acquisition.

The platform provides a virtual space that promotes experiential-learning teaching approaches and immediate feedback to students to facilitate critical thinking and teamwork. This project encourages collaboration between nursing and software engineering students on the design and development of digital health innovations.