Patrick Clark currently serves as the Regional Transport Allocation Center Captain for Monongalia EMS in Morgantown, West Virginia. His team oversees all non-emergent transports for their two local Health Systems along with other facilities within the area.
He has worked in EMS for the last 18 years. During this time, he has worked in several roles, including ground and air services along with Critical Care Transport. Along with EMS, he has also worked as a telecommunicator at a 911 system that served a large metropolitan area.
Q AND A WITH PATRICK CLARK
Q1. You were part of a research team from the Fitch & Associates Communication Center Manager (CCM) Program that completed the study that you entitled “Next Generation 911 and Your Telecommunicators’ Mental Health.” Why did you select this topic?
This topic is going to become a growing concern as Next Generation 911 becomes a national standard. Our team felt that individuals need to be prepared for not only hearing the worst, but also seeing the worst, as video cases become a routine part of emergency dispatch activity.
This technology is going to completely change how emergency dispatchers do their job. We feel that the proper resources need to be available prior to Next Generation 911 being implemented so that the emergency dispatchers are prepared to see potentially traumatic events unfold in real time.
Q2. It appears, from the survey, that most respondents do not have access to mental health services and are not given time/space to heal from a traumatic call. Did your team formulate guidance in accomplishing access for these types of services where non-existent or minimal?
Our team highlighted the importance of having Employee Assistance Programs available to the staff, along with other resources that are reliable if the staff members need a place to turn.
Q3. Was a proactive approach an integral goal in this project?
Yes. A proactive approach is necessary as NG911 begins to spread across the nation. The purpose of this research topic was to stress the importance of having these mental health resources already in place, prior to implementing the system. It also highlights the importance of providing mental health resources to emergency dispatchers regardless of Next Generation 911 implementation. Dispatch centers across the world should have programs in place to ensure their staff have a place to turn when they need it the most.
Q4. Finally, how did participation in CCM influence the research, and will your team network to share information/outcomes of NG911 in each member’s respective centers?
Our team met within the first 2 days of class to begin the planning process. As we went around the table, we all highlighted the lack of mental health programs within dispatch centers. We continued to brainstorm, and eventually we envisioned the connection between Next Generation 911 video technology and mental health issues. From there, we realized that the lack of programs with the current technology was a problem just within our group. As we continued to discuss the inception of Next Generation 911, we realized there could be a real mental health risk to emergency dispatchers—the cumulative effect of seeing traumatic events occur many times in a shift, not just hearing them. We all agreed that at this time, mental health programs were lacking, and if further technology was introduced it could potentially lead to further problems.