The Impact of the Pandemic on First Responders
August 11, 2020
By Kathy Steele, Psy.D, HSP.
For high-stress, high-demand occupations such as those in emergency department settings, the pandemic has drained resources necessary for protection and care as well as support services for first responders. As essential employees, they have entered into unknown territory. One could argue that this is part of the training; however, when a first responder is sent on a call, they are equipped to manage most medical emergencies based on research and knowledge. They were not prepared or equipped to treat, let alone protect themselves, during the uprise of a pandemic.
Let’s talk about the research regarding first responders without a pandemic. First responders and emergency workers can be defined as any and all personnel responding to a crisis, beginning with those immediately on the scene, and ranging from paramedics to healthcare providers in the hospital setting. It is evident that PTSD and depression are prevalent among first responders and emergency workers, and that continued traumatic exposures experienced by first responders increase their risk for developing PTSD by 20 percent within the United States. Forty years of research has also shown us that an individual’s pre-trauma emotional and personality functioning can play a significant role in how they respond to a traumatic event in both the short-term and long-term. This has huge implications for those occupations that are high-stress and involve increased exposure to traumatic crisis situations, such as first responders, emergency department personnel, and other high-impact, high-stress healthcare positions.
Work-related stress and self-reported health concerns were indicated as predictive factors of PTSD and comorbid depressive symptoms. These may include sleep deprivation, alcohol abuse, and poor mental well-being.
It is in the best interest of the medical community to assist their employees, including first responders, and to provide them access to support services. There has been an emergency call on healthcare workers who were in the midst of training to begin providing emergency care, and it is the responsibility of the medical community to provide the best possible care, which also means ensuring that those providing medical emergency care have the resources to perform their job effectively. In addition, it would be in the best interest of the first responder to ensure they are equipped with resiliency factors (i.e., appropriate coping strategies, flexibility and agility, decision making skills, confidence and competence in their skill set, and their ability to manage their psychological well-being).
The medical community may not know where to turn, and how to offer support to their first responders. Utilization of a company who can offer resources to their employees with immediate access can assist with stress reduction and assist in mitigating job dissatisfaction.
R3c can offer such services. Prevention is key, and resources may be provided to your organization and employees. If you are not sure, we can assist in finding solutions to fit your organization.
Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.