Taking Care of Staff: A Comprehensive Model of Support for Paramedics and Emergency Medical Dispatchers

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Abstract

Following a brief overview of alternative Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), this article proposes a comprehensive model of care for emergency service personnel. The pivotal element of the multilayered model is the Peer Support Officer (PSO) component providing early support to ambulance personnel following exposure to potentially traumatic events. After initial recruit training, peer supporters engage in professional supervision and annual psychological first aid education and counseling skill development workshops. The model is embedded within the workforce and is available to personnel for both work-related and personal matters. The success of the EAP relies on collaboration between the employer, professional counselors, and the trained peer support officers as well as extensive education and resilience building for employees. This article proposes that the model outlined offers high-profile, well-trained, and well-supervised peer support officers as an effective alternative to the more common approaches of the past, such as debriefing. Self-report, usage, and archival data collected across 18 years indicate the model offers significant benefits to employees and to their family members.

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