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WE ARE NOT SUPERMAN- Strengthening Paramedic Resilience
Transcript of WE ARE NOT SUPERMAN- Strengthening Paramedic Resilience
Strengthening Paramedic Resilience Paramedics are compassionate and caring people who perform difficult medical procedures and contribute to saving lives under the most stressful conditions. Throughout a Paramedic’s career, they are exposed to traumatic events involving human pain and suffering on a regular basis. The altruistic experience of ambulance work can be personally rewarding and gratifying, Paramedics manage traumatic situations on a cognitive and technical level, meanwhile maintaining an emotional distance. While this stress management strategy may appear to be a positive protective mechanism, frequent exposure to trauma can be cumulative manifesting chronic psychological distress. QAS sustains a median experienced workforce of less than five years operational experience. But yet, Gayton and Lovell (2012) suggest that Paramedics develop resilience through practical experience and about the five year mark they typically reach their resilience plateau. Therefore, this gives support that the median QAS workforce is still developing resilience to psychological distress. Currently, students undertake four hours of resilience training within universities and undertake a pre- employment psychometric testing prior to employment within the QAS. Once employed, the Paramedic is able to seek the support of the Peer Support Program. However, no proactive management is evident to assist the Paramedic build resilience and maintain the ability to ‘bounce back’ to their emotional baseline. Could this explain the average Paramedics career length of approximately five years? The development of resilience “involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learnt” (American Psychological Association 2013). The United States military having observed a markedly increase in post war psychological distress of its veterans, has undertaken the Comprehensive Solider Fitness program aimed to build resilience levels of its personnel. This program bases its principles on Positive Psychology designed to “increase psychological strength and positive performance and to reduce the incidence of maladaptive responses of the entire U.S. Army” (Cornum, Matthews & Seligman 2011). Early outcomes of this program have observed the acceleration of development of psychological health in the younger, less experienced soldiers (Cornum, Vail & Lester 2012). The QAS Peer Support Program could develop a program similar to the United States Army Comprehensive Solider Fitness with focus of post-traumatic growth. By utilising the ideology that personal transformation comes from a renewed appreciation of being alive, enhanced personal strength, acting on new possibilities, improved relationships and spiritual deepening, the EAP could resource Paramedics with tools to; Understanding the response to trauma which includes shattered beliefs about the self, others, and the future. This is a normal response, not a symptom of PTSD or a character defect, Reducing anxiety through techniques for controlling intrusive thoughts and images, Engaging in constructive self-disclosure. Bottling up trauma can lead to a worsening of physical and psychological symptoms, so Paramedics are encouraged to tell their stories, Creating a narrative in which the trauma is seen as a fork in the road that enhances the appreciation of paradox—loss and gain, grief and gratitude, vulnerability and strength and Articulating life principles. These encompass new ways to be altruistic and crafting a new identity. The overall aims should focus on building mental toughness, building signature strengths, and building strong relationships. QAS has a duty of care to provide a safe working environment to its Paramedics. By providing resources for Paramedics to build mental toughness, build signature strengths, and build strong relationships, this investment will see substantial productivity gains with a resilient, experienced workforce.