Exposure to daily trauma: The experiences and coping mechanism of Emergency Medical Personnel. A cross-sectional study

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Introduction To investigate the experience and coping mechanisms used by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel following exposure to daily or routine traumatic events. Methods A total of 189 respondents from three EMS in the Cape Town Metropole completed a questionnaire, containing close-ended quantitative questions. This was followed up by a semi-structured interview in order to get greater insight from in-depth qualitative data. Results The significant results of this study indicate that EMS personnel find dealing with seriously injured children most traumatic. They experience avoidance symptoms after exposure to a traumatic incident and apply emotion-focused coping to help them deal with their emotions. Very little or no training has been received to prepare them for the emotional effects of traumatic incidents or how to deal with the bereaved family, and there was consensus amongst the participants that their company debriefings and support structures are inadequate. Conclusion EMS personnel are exposed to critical incidents on a daily basis. Commonly used emotion-focused coping mechanisms are not effective in long-term coping. A key recommendation emanating from this finding is that integrated intervention programmes are needed to assist EMS personnel working in this sustained high-stress environment. The findings can assist health care educators in the design of co-curricular activities intended to help in the development of resilience and the psychological wellbeing of EMS personnel. Policy makers and EMS managers may find the results useful as they evaluate the effectiveness of their current debriefing and support structures.




Minnie, L., Goodman, S., & Wallis, L. (2015). Exposure to daily trauma: The experiences and coping mechanism of Emergency Medical Personnel. A cross-sectional study. In African Journal of Emergency Medicine (Vol. 5, pp. 12–18). African Federation for Emergency Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.afjem.2014.10.010

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