Friday, May 4, 2012

A Study of Dispatchers and PTSD Part 2

I am impressed with the initial study that noted links between 911 dispatchers and PTSD symptoms conducted by Heather Pierce and Michelle Lilly of Northern Illinois University.

Am going to quote different notations from the news article ( earlier discussed and the actual Brief Report published in the April 2012, 25, 211-215 Journal of Traumatic Stress published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.  My comments will be highlighted.  But believe piecing together different sections will share the information, hopefully, in a cohesive and understandable manner.  As the Brief Report mentions scales I have not a clue about, hopefully I can share the information with you, the reader, but more for my own edification, typing up the notes will help me understand more about PTSD as it relates to my career choice.

Since my rewrite got long, decided to print here as two parts (which means there is a Part 3) because of the plethora of GOOD information.  And let's face it fellow dispatchers, we are more accustomed to short reads (magazine articles) than novels (Gone with the Wind) reading attention spells.

Now my rewrite of the article and Brief Report:: (Part 1)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event.  It is more commonly associated with combat veterans or frontline emergency workers, such as police officers and firefighters.  Peritraumatic distress, the strong emotions felt during a traumatic event, may increase the risk for PTSD in police officers.  Much less is known about emotional reactions and PTSD symptomatology in 911 telecomminicators.  Research on PTSD in 911 telecommunicators, who may experience significant duty-related trauma exposure, has remained largely absent.

The current study assessed duty-related exposure to potentially traumatic calls, peritraumatic distress, and PTSD symptomatology in a cross-sectional, convenience sample (willing volunteers) of 171 telecommunicators from 24 states.  Participants reported experiencing fear, helplessness or horror in reaction to nearly one-third of the different types of potentially traumatic calls.  Survey results showed that dispatchers experience high levels of peritraumatic distress. (Wish they had further noted this is a DAILY occurrence as well for those of us in larger agencies due to the population levels we serve.)

Results showed that telecommunicators reported high levels of peritraumatic distress and a moderate, positive relationship  (Not sure a positive but a definite connection) was found between peritraumatic distress and PTSD symptoms.  The results suggest that 911 telecommunicators are exposed to duty-related trauma that may lead to the development of PTSD and that direct, physical exposure to trauma may not be necessary to increase risk for PTSD in this population (meaning us Dispatchers).

The NIU study suggests that one does not need to be physically present during a traumatic event, or to even know the victim of a trauma, in order for the event to cause significant mental health challenges.  The findings indicated the need for a broader definition and understanding of what might constitute a traumatic event.

Callers to 911 dispatchers are often experiencing an emotional crisis and are hysterical.  Telecommunicators are under enormous pressure to control their own emotions while extracting the pertinent information, securing the emergency scene and communicating with multiple agencies - sometimes during life-and-death situations.

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