Lessons in Post-Disaster Self-Care From 9/11 Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2019 Jun;34(3):335-339. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X19004382.


Objective: The objective of this study was to explore preferred self-care practices among paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack (9/11) in New York City (New York USA).

Design, setting, and participants: Qualitative research methodology with convenience and subsequent snowball sampling was utilized. Participants were adult (at least 18 years of age) paramedics or EMTs who self-reported as responding to the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City.

Main outcome measures: Preferred self-care practices; participant characteristics; indications and patterns of self-care use; perceived benefits and harms; and views on appropriate availability of support and self-care services were the main outcome measures.

Results: The 9/11 paramedic and EMT participants reported a delay in recognizing the need for self-care. Preferred physical self-care practices included exercise, good nutrition, getting enough sleep, and sticking to routine. Preferred psychosocial self-care practices included spending time with family and friends, participating in peer-support programs and online support forums, and routinely seeing a mental health professional. Self-care was important for younger paramedics and EMTs who reported having less-developed supportive infrastructure around them, as well as for retiring paramedics and EMTs who often felt left behind by a system they had dedicated their lives to. Access to cooking classes and subsidized gym memberships were viewed as favorable, as was the ability to include family members in self-care practices.

Conclusion(s): A range of physical and psychosocial self-care practices should be encouraged among paramedic students and implemented by Australian ambulance services to ensure the health and well-being of paramedics throughout their career and into retirement.

Keywords: EMT: emergency medical technician; FDNY: Fire Department of New York; PTSD: posttraumatic stress disorder; SJA: St John Ambulance; WA: Western Australia; WTC: World Trade Center; 9/11; EMT; emergency medical technician; paramedic; self-care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allied Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / psychology
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Responders / psychology
  • Emergency Responders / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • New York City
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sampling Studies
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Self Care / psychology
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Time Factors