Townsend, K., Loudoun, R. and Wilkinson, A. (2018) Improving People Management in Emergency Services, Summary Report. Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University, Brisbane
The Ambulance Employees’ Association of SA (AEA) has partnered with researchers from Griffith Uni in Queensland focussing on how ambulance services organisationally deal with issues of psychological health and well-being of their staff.
The research involved ambos from South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory; there were hundreds of participants who took the time to be interviewed and fill out research surveys.
The AEA supported this research, and others that are on-going, because of deep concern for the health, physical and mental, of its members. AEA Secretary Phil Palmer said today “stress is the asbestos of the ambulance industry; and much more work is needed to make a very difficult and risky job safer”
Some of the key concerns shown by the research are:
• A provisional PTSD diagnosis can be made for 10% of Queensland and 8.5% of South Australian staff. An additional 6.6% and 4% of respondents in each state respectively were found to be close to a provisional diagnosis. Recent changes in the measurement instrument for PTSD has meant that many people who would previously had a provisional diagnosis are now excluded.
• More symptoms of PTSD are reported by employees with longer tenure of employment.
• Those with more symptoms have higher intention to quit and poorer ability to do their work.
• Social support is a key factor in these findings, with those reporting greater support also less likely to have symptoms of PTSD.
• Those with severe and extremely severe anxiety comprise around 40% of the sample in all jurisdictions.
• Fatigue remains a major problem for more than half of all staff in each jurisdiction.
• Interviewees across all geographical areas report persistent high fatigue, affecting their ability to perform and desire to stay in the service for the long term.
• Around one in every five employees say that they are seriously looking for another job. Employees’ intention to quit is higher when they view the human resource management (HRM) system as weak, and when they are regularly exposed to natural disasters and physical assault. This finding highlights the importance of building a strong HRM system where employees are clear about the behaviours that are expected – and rewarded – by the organisation. This point is reinforced by a significant relationship between HRM system strength and employee fatigue.
• The employee support systems in place in these organisations provide vital social and organisational support for employees. Both formal and informal colleague support are fundamental elements of the support systems.
SOURCE: Townsend, K., Loudoun, R., and Wilkinson, A., (2018) Improving People Management in Emergency Services, Summary Report. Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University, Brisbane.
SA Ambulance must be properly staffed, resourced and funded so that ambos can get on with their job of looking after the community without having to risk their career, and their well-being, every time they report for work.
Quoting Professor Sandy McFarlane from Adelaide University’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies Mr Palmer said “ ‘The very nature of these occupations is that it requires people to deny their own fears and apprehensions and to walk towards danger’ ”
Mr Palmer also said, “The community needs first responders to “walk towards danger”, to put themselves in harm’s way to provide care; so the Government, on behalf of the community should care for them in return”.
Authorised by Phil Palmer, AEA Secretary 0419 815830 or 8340 3511