Rescuers at risk: Posttraumatic stress symptoms differ among police officers, fire fighters, ambulance personnel, and emergency and psychiatric nurses
Emergency personnel and rescue workers may be at a risk of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) due to exposure to trauma and work-related stressors. Salient predictors for the development of PTSS among rescue workers have been identified; however, little is known about how these predictors differ among professions requiring repeated engagement in emergencies. The present cross-sectional survey aimed to examine how these variables influence PTSS, well-being, and suicidal ideation across
... t professions of rescue workers and emergency personnel. In this anonymous online study, data from 1,002 rescue workers and emergency personnel in the canton Bern, Switzerland, were collected in the year 2015: 499 police officers, 239 firefighters, 97 ambulance personnel, and 85 emergency and 82 psychiatric nurses. PTSS, coping strategies, well-being, suicidal ideation, previously experienced and work-related trauma, and self-efficacy were measured and analyzed using multiple regression and structural equation modeling (SEM). The prevalence of suspected posttraumatic stress disorder varied across the professions (F4, 994 = 6.21, P < 0.001), ranged from 8% (firefighters) to 22% (psychiatric nurses), and was associated with psychological strain and suicidal ideation. The SEM showed that dysfunctional coping strategies, self-efficacy, previously experienced and work-related trauma, years on the job, and the female sex explained between 37% and 78% of PTSS and that PTSS itself explained between 48% and 68% of the psychological strain experienced in the different professions. Independent of the profession, dysfunctional coping such as alcohol use, avoidance, and distraction, as well as work-related trauma were the most robust predictors of PTSS development. In agreement with prior research, emergency personnel and rescuers exhibited enhanced prevalence of PTSS and suspected PTSD, leading to significant psychological strain and suicidal ideation. However, risk factors varied across the professions. Thus, the development of profession-specific trainings to improve self-efficacy and coping with work-related stressors to reduce PTSS, and enhance quality of life, is urgently needed for individuals in such high-risk professions.