The impact of emergency call taking on the mental health and wellbeing of ambulance call-takers: A systematic thematic narrative of qualitative research

Eileen Willis, Sharon Lawn, Louise Roberts, Leah Couzner, Leila Mohammadi Mohammadi, Elizabeth Goble

Abstract


Background

Over the past decade there has been significant focus on the mental health and wellbeing of emergency service workers in Australia, evidenced by the 2018 Senate Inquiry into the role of Commonwealth, state and territory Governments in addressing the high rates of mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers. Call-takers as an occupational group within this domain are at risk of cumulative and vicarious trauma, yet there is little research on their work-related mental illness. This systematic thematic narative literature review of qualitative articles reports on the mental health and wellbeing of emergency call-takers.

Methods

Both published peer review (2000–2018) and grey literature (2009–2018) that examined the impact of emergency work on call-takers was retrieved. Papers that focussed on call-takers’ psychological and psychosocial health were selected. Databases included Ovid Medline, CINAHL, Ovid EMcare, PsychInfo, Scopus as well as Google Scholar.

Results

Fourteen articles met the eligibility criteria; five peer review and nine grey literature studies. Thematic analysis identified issues around surveillance versus lack of supervision; role denial versus advocacy; and failure to acknowledge vicarious trauma. Suggestions for improvement required recognition of the stressful nature of the work, improvements in workplace culture and the provision of support and counselling services.

Conclusion

Workplace stressors for call-takers arise from their work in dealing with trauma related communication with the public as well workplace culture, particularly the response of management to issues such as shift work, poorly managed rosters and long hours of work with little time for recovery. Compounding these issues is the invisibility of call-taker work.


Keywords


call-takers; ambulance services; mental health and well-being; organisational culture; qualitative

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.33151/ajp.17.801

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