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Emerg Med J. 2003 Jan; 20(1): 79–84.
PMCID: PMC1726002

Post-traumatic stress among Swedish ambulance personnel

Abstract

Objective: Emergency workers, including ambulance personnel, must cope with a variety of duty related stressors including traumatic incident exposures. Little is known about the variables that might be associated with post-traumatic stress symptom in high risk occupational groups such as ambulance personnel. This study investigated the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among Swedish ambulance personnel.

Methods: To estimate the prevalence of trauma related disorders, a representative group of 362 ambulance personal from the county of Västra Götaland in Sweden was surveyed through use of a Swedish version of Antonovsky's 13-item short version of Sense of Coherence Scale, to measure reactions to traumatic events two instruments were used, Impact of Event Scale (IES-15) and the Post Traumatic Symptom Scale (PTSS-10). A total of 223 of the ambulance personnel reported that they had had experience of what they described as traumatic situations.

Results: Of those who reported a traumatic situation 15.2% scored 31 or more on the IES-15 sub scale. Scores over 31 indicate a stress reaction with certain likelihood of post-traumatic disorder. On the PTSS-10 subscale 12.1% scored 5 or more, which indicates a relative strong reaction. The study indicates that lower sense of coherence predicts post-traumatic stress. Other predictors for the extent of traumatic stress were longer job experience, age, physical and psychological workload.

Conclusions: The high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in ambulance personnel indicates an inability to cope with stress in daily work. The strong relation between post-traumatic stress and Sense of Coherence Scale may be useful in predicting vulnerability for post-traumatic symptoms among recently employed ambulance service personnel. To prevent or reduce the upcoming of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms it must be possible to take leave of absence, or for a longer or shorter time be transferred to non-emergency duties. This study presents a better understanding between post-traumatic stress and underlying factors among ambulance personnel.

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Selected References

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