Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2016


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Debra Hyatt-Burkhart

Committee Member

Lisa Lopez Levers

Committee Member

Waganesh Zeleke


Emergency Medical Services, EMS, Trauma, Suicide


Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel experience direct traumatic exposure that can leave a lasting negative impact. However, little is known about the vicarious exposure that EMS personnel experience at challenging calls when family and loved ones are present at the scene. Additionally, there is minimal research that has looked at the experiences among paramedics and EMTs who arrive to mental disturbance calls or completed suicides. In order to add to the substantial body of literature on EMS personnel and traumatic exposure, this study explored their experiences of multifaceted traumatization; the lived experiences of paramedics and EMTs who have responded to completed suicides where loved ones of the deceased were present, and as a result, experienced both a negative psychological impact and posttraumatic growth. The study explored the risk factors and protective factors that paramedics and EMTs experience in their work. Additionally, this inquiry sought to explore the ways in which participants find meaning in providing emergency medical services and how they sustain their work.

This qualitative, phenomenological study was conducted through semi-structured individual interviews with 12 paramedics or EMTs who have been employed or volunteered for at least one year. Explication of data was completed using van Manen's (1990) four existential themes: spatiality, corporeality, temporality, and relationality. The results of this study identified themes that address van Manen's (1990) lived existentials, protective factors against posttraumatic symptoms through direct and vicarious traumatization, risk factors that contribute to these symptoms, and meaning making in their work. The implications of the study for the field of emergency medical services and suggestions for future research are provided.