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Personality traits of emergency physicians and paramedics
  1. Frank-Gerald Pajonk1,
  2. Burghard Andresen2,
  3. Thomas Schneider-Axmann1,
  4. Alexander Teichmann1,
  5. Ulf Gärtner2,
  6. Jürgen Lubda3,
  7. Heinzpeter Moecke3,
  8. Georg von Knobelsdorff4
  1. 1Center for Psychiatric and Psychotherapeutic Care and Rehabilitation- Dr. K. Fontheim's Hospital for Mental Health, Liebenburg, Germany
  2. 2Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany
  3. 3Institute of Emergency Medicine, Asklepios Hospitals Hamburg, Germany
  4. 4Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, St. Bernward Hospital, Hildesheim, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Professor Frank-Gerald B Pajonk, Center for Psychiatric and Psychotherapeutic Care and Rehabilitation, Dr. K. Fontheim's Hospital for Mental Health, Lindenstr. 15, Liebenburg D - 38704 , Germany; pajonk{at}


Objective Personality influences behaviour and decision-making. This may play a particular role in emergency medical personnel (EMP) dealing with critical situations. So far very little is known about personality traits that distinguish paramedics (PM) and emergency physicians (EP) from other medical staff.

Methods A questionnaire including the ultra-short version of the Hamburg Personality Inventory (HPA) was distributed to EP, PM, medical doctors not practicing emergency medicine (MD) and medical students (MS).

Results 274 EPs, 245 PMs, 48 MDs and 60 MSs returned the questionnaire. Four personality clusters in EPs and PMs were identified and to be found largely independent from demographic and job-related variables. For both groups one cluster revealed personality characteristics that seem particularly suitable for EMP (‘resilient crisis manager’). ‘Anxious’ and ‘insecure’ personality traits were found in two clusters in PMs and in one cluster in EPs. Mental health problems in the participants or their relatives or the experience of loss increased scores in the dimensions neuroticism and openness.

Conclusions The personality characteristics of EPs and PMs are not homogenous and do not differ substantially from those of MDs and MSs. 50–70% of EMP can be characterised as ‘resilient and stable’, up to 30–40% as ‘anxious and insecure’. The presence of mental health problems in participants or their relatives or the experience of loss may lead to openness for new experiences and alternative behaviour or – on the other hand – may trigger feelings of insecurity and/or anxiety in emergency situations.

  • Emergency medicine
  • critical care
  • personality
  • emergency physician
  • paramedic
  • emergency care systems
  • intensive care
  • mental health
  • psychology
  • staff support

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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