Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)
School of Education
Lisa Lopez Levers
Emma C. Mosley
Burnout, Cumulative Stress, Emergency Medical Service Worker, Natural Disaster, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
On Monday, August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Louisiana and Alabama coastlines. The storm was recorded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the greatest natural disaster to strike the United States. Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers from around the nation were dispatched to the disaster area to aid in the recovery operation. A small squad of volunteers from a regional disaster response team was dispatched on October 2005 by FEMA to Hurricane Katrina disaster areas. The team, composed of 24 members, worked the disaster area six weeks after the initial impact. This delayed response provided me with opportunistic informants who could report the effects of cumulative stress reactions that occurred during and shortly after their response into that devastated region. This study was grounded in Critical Incident Stress Management Theory (CISM) developed by Jeff Michell. This inquiry utilized focus groups and key informant individual interviews as the primary source of data. In this research project, I used an interpretive approach to data collection and analysis. Open ended lines of inquiry were used. An analysis of responses indicated that severe disruptions occurred in each of the five components of CISM. These disruptions included early intervention treatments for EMS providers, exposure to critical incidents, provision of psychosocial support to rescuers in need, an opportunity for expression of thoughts and feelings, crisis education and assistance in the development of coping mechanisms. A theme of disturbance also emerged within this study's subjects from interactions with administrative and political systems that were present in the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Area. Additionally, other factors such as the presence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, disturbance in relationships, reduced job satisfaction and existential dilemmas were reported by the subjects. Cumulative stress from disaster recovery work has gone unrecognized. This study suggests that professional counselors and the national EMS system must begin to address the affects of cumulative stress on emergency providers in a systemic way. The importance of understanding cultural issues, decentralization of decision making in a disaster and specialized treatment mental health treatment protocols for emergency workers must be developed.
Tracy, S. (2006). How Cumulative Stress Affected the Lived Experience of Emergency Medical Service Workers after a Horrific Natural Disaster: Implications for Professional Counselors (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1291