911 Operators May Experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Telecommunicators experience peritraumatic distress, which is positively associated with PTSD

FRIDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Emergency dispatchers experience high levels of peritraumatic distress, which is positively associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a study published online March 29 in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Heather Pierce and Michelle M. Lilly, Ph.D., of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, assessed a cross-sectional, convenience sample of 171 911 telecommunicators to assess duty-related exposure to potentially traumatic calls as well as peritraumatic distress and PTSD symptomology. Participants were assessed using the Potentially Traumatic Events/Calls measure, the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale, and the Peritraumatic Distress Inventory.

The researchers found that 911 telecommunicators reported high levels of peritraumatic distress. A moderate, positive association was seen between peritraumatic distress and severity of PTSD symptoms (r = 0.34).

"The results suggest that 911 telecommunicators are exposed to duty-related trauma that may lead to the development of PTSD, and that direct, physical exposure to trauma may not be necessary to enhance risk for PTSD in this population," the authors write.

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