Continual exposure to trauma in the emergency services : an investigation into the psychological effects on new recruits
The main aim of this study was to investigate the psychological effects of continual exposure to trauma on new recruits to the emergency services. Changes over a three-month period, in which trainee ambulance technicians were continually exposed to trauma, were measured in terms of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress symptomatology, world assumptions, and perceived social support. Ten trainee ambulance technicians (treatment group) and eight ambulance administration staff (untreated control group) completed baseline measures, whilst the trainees were in training. Post-test measures were then completed after the trainees had been operational for one month and then again at three months. After three months of continual exposure to trauma, the trainees also completed a semi-structured questionnaire to provide qualitative insight into the trainees' experiences. The main findings of the study were as follows: Anxiety levels of the trainee ambulance technicians decreased significantly over the three months. Posttraumatic symptomatology levels also decreased significantly in the trainees between preexposure and three month of continual exposure to trauma. The use of positive reinterpretation and growth as a coping response to trauma increased significantly within the group of trainees. No significant differences were found in the measures of the untreated control group, indicating that the findings from the trainees were likely to be attributable to the effects of continual exposure to trauma. These results were discussed in terms of the psychological impact that continual exposure to trauma had on the trainees. The strengths and limitations of the study, along with the clinical implications, and recommendations for future research were also presented.