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The critical incident inventory: Characteristics of incidents which affect emergency medical technicians and paramedics

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Background: Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics experience critical incidents which evoke distress and impaired functioning but it is unknown which aspects of incidents contribute to their impact. We sought to determine these specific characteristics by developing an inventory of critical incident characteristics and testing their relationship to protracted recovery from acute stress, and subsequent emotional symptoms.Methods: EMT/paramedics (n = 223) completed a retrospective survey of reactions to an index critical incident, and current depressive, posttraumatic and burnout symptoms. Thirty-six potential event characteristics were evaluated; 22 were associated with peritraumatic distress and were retained. We assigned inventory items to one of three domains: situational, systemic or personal characteristics. We tested the relationships between (a) endorsing any domain item and (b) outcomes of the critical incident (peritraumatic dissociation, recovery from components of the Acute Stress Reaction and depressive, posttraumatic, and burnout symptoms). Analyses were repeated for the number of items endorsed.Results: Personal and situational characteristics were most frequently endorsed. The personal domain had the strongest associations, particularly with peritraumatic dissociation, prolonged distressing feelings, and current posttraumatic symptoms. The situational domain was associated with peritraumatic dissociation, prolonged social withdrawal, and current posttraumatic symptoms. The systemic domain was associated with peritraumatic dissociation and prolonged irritability. Endorsing multiple characteristics was related to peritraumatic, acute stress, and current posttraumatic symptoms. Relationships with outcome variables were as strong for a 14-item inventory (situational and personal characteristics only) as the 22-item inventory.Conclusions: Emotional sequelae are associated most strongly with EMT/paramedics' personal experience, and least with systemic characteristics. A14-item inventory identifies critical incident characteristics associated with emotional sequelae. This may be helpful in tailoring recovery support to individual provider needs. © 2012 Halpern et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.




Halpern, J., Maunder, R. G., Schwartz, B., & Gurevich, M. (2012). The critical incident inventory: Characteristics of incidents which affect emergency medical technicians and paramedics. BMC Emergency Medicine, 12.

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