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  • 2018RutterLDClinPsy

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Emergency personnel's experiences of their role

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Lauren Rutter
Publication date2018
Number of pages167
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish


This thesis explored the experiences of emergency personnel (ambulance clinicians, firefighters and police officers) when encountering potentially traumatic incidents as part of their role.
The literature review synthesised the findings from 17 qualitative studies that reported on emergency personnel’s experience of the stressful nature of their role. The process elicited seven concepts: (1) feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty; (2) macho culture; (3) identification; (4) impact of the job; (5) hardening to the job; (6) detachment and dehumanisation; and (7) coping strategies following the job. The findings suggested that emergency responders use detachment strategies to maintain focus on the job and the factors that can hinder this, resulting in distress. The results also suggest there is a macho culture associated with the emergency personnel organisation which can implicate social support and discussion of emotional responses.
The research study employed a qualitative Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis design to investigate ambulance clinicians’ experiences of psychological trauma as a consequence of their role. Four super-ordinate themes emerged: (1) focused and detached in order to do the job; (2) “we are only human”: The risks of emotionally connecting; (3) regaining control and processing the event; (4) The psychological impact and implications for support. The findings demonstrate the difficulties ambulance clinicians can experience as a result from routine practice, the need for support and implications of seeking it.
The critical appraisal provides a summary of the research study and its findings. It details reflections and reasons for the self-selection approach to sampling. Also, reflections from the conflict that arose between researcher and clinician roles is discussed.