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‘You're never making just one decision’: exploring the lived experiences of ambulance Emergency Operations Centre personnel
  1. Astrid Coxon1,
  2. Mark Cropley2,
  3. Pat Schofield3,
  4. Kath Start4,5,
  5. Claire Horsfield4,5,
  6. Tom Quinn6
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  3. 3Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK
  4. 4Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, School of Health Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  5. 5South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, Banstead, Surrey, UK
  6. 6Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Kingston University and St George's, University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Mark Cropley, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK; mark.cropley{at}surrey.ac.uk

Abstract

Background The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of ambulance dispatch personnel, identifying key stressors and their impact on staff well-being.

Methods Qualitative methodology was used. Nine semistructured interviews were conducted with National Health Service (NHS) ambulance Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) dispatch personnel in the UK between July and August 2014. Participants were asked about their experiences of the role, stress experienced and current strategies they use to deal with stress. Transcripts were analysed using an inductive, bottom-up thematic analysis.

Results Three key themes were identified: (1) ‘How dispatch is perceived by others’, (2) ‘What dispatch really involves’ and (3) ‘Dealing with the stresses of dispatch’. All participants expressed pride in their work, but felt overloaded by the workload and undervalued by others. Several sources of additional stress, not directly related to the execution of their work, were identified, including the need to mentally unwind from work at the end of a shift. Participants were able to identify a number of ways in which they currently manage work-related stress, but they also suggested changes the organisation could put in place in order to reduce stress in the working environment.

Conclusions Building on existing theory on work stress and postwork recovery, it was concluded that EOC dispatch staff require greater support at work, including skills training to promote postshift recovery, in order to reduce the likelihood of sickness absence, and prevent work-related fatigue.

  • emergency ambulance systems
  • emergency ambulance systems, effectiveness
  • psychology, staff support

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