Trauma in emergency services: a systematic review of posttraumatic growth in firefighters and an investigation into post-traumatic stress symptoms in ambulance clinicians: severity and associations with self compassion, psychological inflexibility and wellbeing
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Davis, Emma Katherine
This research portfolio examines the impact of trauma exposure in the emergency services. Emergency services represent a unique population in that they are frequently and repeatedly exposed to distressing and potentially traumatic situations. Firstly, a systematic review was conducted looking at factors that may potentially predict positive outcomes following trauma exposure in firefighters, namely the concept of posttraumatic growth (PTG). A review of the existing evidence was conducted across five databases. Studies were assessed against inclusion criteria and 12 studies were included. Results suggested that PTG was generally either not significantly or weakly related to other factors. Variables that were associated with PTG were aspects of the trauma exposure, post-traumatic stress severity and organisational and operational factors; however results were limited by methodological quality. Overall, the current evidence base has not identified strong predictors of PTG and associations appear multifactorial. Results indicate that PTG appears to have limited clinical utility in firefighters and that future research should improve upon the methodological limitations of the existing evidence base. The second part of the portfolio consists of an empirical study exploring the levels of post-traumatic stress symptom (PTSS) severity in ambulance clinicians and a cross-sectional analysis of factors relating to PTSS severity and psychological wellbeing in this population. A total of 508 ambulance clinicians (Paramedics and Ambulance Technicians) were recruited across Scotland. The relationships between PTSS severity, psychological wellbeing, self-compassion and psychological inflexibility were analysed using structural equation modelling. Results showed approximately 50% demonstrate clinically concerning levels of PTSS in the ambulance service and a strong positive relationship between psychological inflexibility and PTSS severity as well as with psychological wellbeing. Self-compassion had a small association with psychological wellbeing but was not significantly associated with PTSS severity. The potential impact of relying on post-traumatic stress disorder criteria of symptoms lasting for four weeks or more may mask the extent of PTSS experienced in this population. Findings indicate concerning levels of trauma symptomology within a representative ambulance service sample, and suggest the need for further investigation into potential causal relationships between psychological flexibility and PTSS in order to deliver effective interventions to reduce PTSS severity in this population.