A new study has revealed a significant number of Queensland ambulance officers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of stress associated with the exposure to trauma that comes with the job.
The study, conducted by Griffith University researchers in partnership with United Voice and the Ambulance Employees’ Association of South Australia, involved 1,216 surveys and 72 interviews with emergency services employees in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
It aims to gain a better understanding of organisational factors that affect paramedic and support staff experiences of work and employment, and the impact these factors have on their psychological health and wellbeing.
The study finds that in addition to the 10% of respondents that showed a “provisional PTSD diagnosis”, 6.6% have close to a provisional diagnosis of PTSD. Anxiety is also at very high levels among the workforce. Those with severe and extremely severe anxiety comprise around 40% of the sample in all jurisdictions. Depression features strongly too with around 17% of Queensland and South Australian participants returning surveys that indicate severe or extremely severe depression.
United Voice co-ordinator Fiona Scalon says that although respondents reported benefiting from organisational support for problems arising from trauma, the union would continue working with the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) to improve these systems.
“This study clearly shows that the pressures of the job are taking their toll. It’s important for ambulance services to have credible evidence to guide employee support policies and provisions,” she said.
“This is an issue United Voice is tackling on behalf of our members because it’s really important for communities to have healthy cohorts of ambulance officers who can carry their vital role to the best of their ability.”
Griffith University Associate Professor Keith Townsend, who co-authored the report, said the report showed there was some great support within QAS, however, many paramedics were still struggling.
“We have a great opportunity for management and the union to work together to find ways to improve the paramedics’ experience,” he said.
“Following the Commonwealth and State Government’s senate inquiry, we need to have unions, managers and health ministers sitting down and findings solutions to these problems.”
“Our frontline staff do a tremendous job and we need to find novel ways to ensure they can continue performing the great work that they are doing.”