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Handbook of Stress in the Occupations

Edited by Janice Langan-Fox and Cary Cooper

The Handbook of Stress in the Occupations sets a new agenda for stress research and gives fresh impetus to scholars who wish to focus on issues and problems associated with specific jobs, some of which have received little attention in the past.
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Chapter 11: Stress and Trauma in the Emergency Services

Cheryl Regehr and Vicki LeBlanc


Cheryl Regehr and Vicki LeBlanc In a recent study of 26 high-stress professions, paramedics ranked first in terms of compromised physical health (police ranked ninth), firefighters and paramedics ranked third and fourth respectively in terms of compromised psychological health (police ranked 11th), and paramedics and police ranked second and third in terms of low job satisfaction (firefighters ranked 12th) (Johnson et al., 2005). Research has also identified alarming levels of traumatic stress symptoms in individuals working in emergency services. Studies of firefighters report various rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ranging from 37 percent to 5 percent (Al-Nasar & Everly, 1999; Bryant & Harvey, 1996; Del Ben et al., 2006; Heinrichs et al., 2005). Studies of paramedics report trauma symptoms in a range consistent with PTSD in 20–30 percent of respondents (Alexander & Klein, 2001; Clohessy & Ehlers, 1999; Regehr et al., 2002a). Following a critical event such as a police shooting, trauma symptoms in the high or severe range can affect as many as 46 percent of those officers involved (Carlier et al., 2000). Thus it is clear that emergency professionals on the front lines frequently suffer from stress and trauma symptoms as a result of their work. This chapter summarizes a program of research spanning over a decade, aimed at examining trauma and acute stress in emergency workers. In this program of research, the focus has been on three broad themes: (1) the incidence of trauma exposure and nature of trauma responses in emergency workers; (2) the factors associated with trauma...

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