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Logo of oenvmedOccupational and Environmental MedicineCurrent TOCInstructions for authors
Occup Environ Med. Jun 2003; 60(Suppl 1): i40–i46.
PMCID: PMC1765729

Acute and chronic job stressors among ambulance personnel: predictors of health symptoms

Abstract

Objectives: To predict symptomatology (post-traumatic distress, fatigue, and burnout) due to acute and chronic work related stressors among ambulance personnel.

Methods: Data were gathered from 123 ambulance workers in The Netherlands in a longitudinal design. At two measurements they completed standardised questionnaires to assess health symptoms, such as the Impact of Event Scale, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, and the Checklist Individual Strength. Acute stressors were assessed with specific questions, and chronic work related stressors were measured with the Questionnaire on the Experience and Assessment of Work.

Results: Most of the ambulance workers had been confronted with acute stressors in their work. They also reported more chronic work related stressors than a reference group. Of the participants, more than a tenth suffered from a clinical level of post-traumatic distress, a tenth reported a fatigue level that put them at high risk for sick leave and work disability and nearly a tenth of the personnel suffered from burnout. Best predictors of symptomatology at time 2 were lack of social support at work and poor communication, such as not being informed about important decisions within the organisation.

Conclusions: Ambulance personnel are at risk to develop health symptoms due to work related stressors. Although, acute stressors are related to health symptoms, such as fatigue, burnout, and post-traumatic symptoms, it was not found to predict health symptoms in the long term. Main risk factors have to do with social aspects of the work environment, in particular lack of support from the supervisor as well as colleagues and poor communication. When implementing workplace interventions these social aspects need to be taken into account.

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