Objective: The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the effects of occupational identity on the psychological needs of emergency telecommunicators on and off the job, as well as to learn their recommendations for improvements which would strengthen psychological well-being both onsite and offsite.
Methods: A qualitative phenomenological approach in the form of an open ended, web-based survey was utilized. Participants were between the ages of 19-67 who have worked as emergency telecommunicators in PSAPS across the state of California for at least one-year, operating emergency phone lines as well as emergency radio (n = 142).
Results: Thematic content analysis was utilized to analyze the findings. Themes for highest stressors were: Suffering and Barrier for call-taking; Peril and Complex Calls for radio traffic; Active Lack of Support and Passive Lack of Support for coworker interactions; Apprehension and Disconnect for interactions with management; and Time-Off, Relationships, and Personal Time for work-life balance. Themes for recommendations were: Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery for both call-taking and radio traffic; Team Culture and Stress Reduction for interactions with coworkers; Culture of Respect and Accountability for interactions with management; and Schedule and Wellness for work-life balance.
Conclusion: This study yielded significant themes regarding stressors as well as recommendations, each of which reflected emergency telecommunicators’ unique occupational identity. In meeting emergency telecommunicators’ psychological needs from their subjective occupational viewpoints, mental health professionals can provide tailored therapeutic programs that would be practical and meaningful for this population. Likewise, public safety organizations can implement relevant and practical changes in work policy and environment. In turn, emergency telecommunicators may achieve stronger psychological well-being and resilience to trauma, as well as being optimally equipped to serve and protect field responders and civilians during crises.
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