Today’s episode of Within the Trenches touches on the topic of stress and physical and mental issues in 9-1-1. As 9-1-1 dispatchers, we have heard it all. We have taken every call from the most ridiculous to the most horrific. If you’re like me, the calls that involve children are the ones that affect you most. I once took a call from a nine-year-old girl who had come home from school and found her mom passed out in the living room. She told me that her mom was not moving and her face was blue. I told her how to do CPR and she did it the best she could until help arrived. Although she did a great job her mom had already passed. She had had an overdose and died long before her daughter got home. I remember the little girl being scared but never lost it. Maybe it was the shock of the situation. Whatever it was, it’s a call I’ll never forget.
Towards the end of my dispatch career I began to feel burnt out. I enjoyed my job but the politics, long hours, workplace drama and stress began to eat at me. It’s something that people don’t understand unless you have done the job. The stress can be so great that some dispatchers have crashed and burned. How come no one, other than the dispatchers themselves, have noticed or addressed this? It’s something that wasn’t out there before but within the past year there have been numerous news articles covering the constant stress and physical and mental state of 9-1-1 dispatchers.
Whitney and I have done episodes in the past about CISM and EMDR but I wanted to do another one. In this episode I spoke with Michelle, assistant professor with Northern Illinois University who has been doing research on 9-1-1 dispatchers for the past few years concentrating on mental and physical health. There is a lot to learn in this episode. There was so much we could touch on that we are going to do a second episode to cover the rest. Michelle’s research is ongoing and if you would like to participate you can do so by clicking the link below. There is also a description. As always you can email the show at email@example.com.
We are currently looking for participants to enroll in our current studies. We are recruiting experienced TCs (at least one year of experience as a TC) and they can be currently working, have left the occupation, or retired from the job. Experienced TCs can complete a 1.5-2 hour survey online that they complete in multiple sittings. We are also doing follow up surveys that are much shorter (45 minutes) at 6 months and 12 months after the first survey. For each survey completed, the TC gets entered for a chance to win one of two $100 cash prizes. There will be three drawings – one after we’re finished collecting the baseline survey, one after we’re done collecting the 6 month survey, and one after the 12 month survey. The survey is hoping to get a good estimate of the psychological and physical health complaints of TCs and is a follow up to the pilot project. We’re also hoping to understand much more about what predicts poor health over time for this population.
We also hope to enroll trainees. They just have to be within their first 4 months of training. These participants complete a 1.5-2 hour survey and get $30 for completing it, as well as a chance to win one of two $100 cash prizes. In addition, we do shorter follow up surveys (45 min in length) and hold drawings for each of the subsequent time points that a trainee completes the survey. We hope that they will stay enrolled, even if they do not complete training or leave the job. The survey is looking at factors that predict adverse mental health and job attrition over time to help improve training efforts, hiring practices, and telecommunicator well-being.
Episode topics –
- Blue Mazda call
- Michelle’s intro and research interest
- What elements contribute to PTSD
- And more