Objective: This study assessed the chronic (everyday) stress experiences and coping strategies among volunteer Emergency Medical Services personnel.
Methods: An anonymous, self-report survey using standardized measures of burnout (the Maslach Burnout Inventory) and coping (the Coping Mechanisms Checklist) was completed by a convenience sample of volunteer Emergency Medical Services personnel serving one of six participating ambulance companies in Suffolk County, New York.
Results: Survey responders included 139 of 175 volunteers who were recruited to participate (response rate = 79%). Alarming percentages of participants scored high on emotional exhaustion (92%) and depersonalization (99%); however, 75% also reported high levels of personal accomplishment. The use of several coping strategies were concerning. Significant differences were found in coping strategies used between genders and number of years served; women were more likely to talk with significant others (97% vs. 81.7%, chi-square = 6.849, p < 0.001), whereas men were more likely to indicate that they pick and choose calls to go on (67% vs. 49%, chi-square = 4.062, p = 0.044). Participants with 6+ years were more likely than those with fewer years to "keep thoughts/feelings to self" (95.6% vs. 81.2%, chi-square = 5.72, p = 0.017) and "engage in risky behaviors" (47.82% vs. 30.43%, chi-square = 3.68, p = 0.055). Approximately half of responders indicted that they do the bare minimum required to stay an active member of their ambulance company (53%). ANOVAs revealed that use of several coping strategies were significantly associated with depersonalization and personal accomplishment scores.
Conclusion: Gender, years of experience, the types of coping strategies used, and high levels of depersonalization and emotional exhaustion must be considered when developing mental health programs for chronic stress among volunteer Emergency Medical Services personnel.