The following are interviews conducted with people who are actively working as either a firefighter, ER Nurse, or on the ambulance as an EMT/Paramedic. All of the following individuals have had 5 years of experience or more. Their identities will remain private, other than the information on what occupation they have and how long they’ve been there.

Interview #1 – Firefighter

What is your job?

Firefighter.”

How long have you been doing it?

“9 and a half years”                        

Have you ever had a call that induced stress or PTSD?

“During my first 3 months, we were dispatched to a 70 year old male with a fever in middle of night. We arrived on scene and the patient was actually a 7 year old male. Parents found him not breathing, he simply had died after they put him down for bed. We attempted CPR for 20 minutes while we waited for the paramedics to pronounce him, but he was dead for a while, rigormortis had already set it. What made that call so difficult was that it was completely unexpected. It was also my first death. ”

Have you ever had nightmares of that call?

“No, glad it was me and not David, who was suppose to be on shift that day because he has children”

Have you ever Re-experiencing fear?

“Oh yeah, every time I drive past his neighborhood or the store his family owns. The store was named after him. I feel like it’s unfair when I see it”

Any increased anxiety?

“I felt uneasy after that call, for sure”

Have you ever had depression, from that call or anything else job related?

“I wouldn’t say depressed, but I’ve been sad before.”

Have you ever felt like isolating yourself, or have you experienced a lack of hygiene or caring for yourself?

“No “I haven’t gotten to that stage. Certain people lose a sense of caring. Keeping neat, hygiene.”

 Do you ever have anger problems, or have a short fuse?

“Only when I drive, but when I do that it’s just like I’m talking to myself, other than that, no”

Do you ever drink, use nicotine, or find yourself attracted to sweet foods?

“I rarely drink and I hate sweets, but I do chewing Tabaco.”

Do you have an increased desire for adrenalin stimulation? Taking more risks?

“I’ve done them all, but I don’t go after them. But I’m not a junky”

It sounds like you handle the stress of the job fairly well, what do you do to blow off steam? Do you have any hobbies?

“I like to get out! I enjoy sports, hiking… I like to travel. I can’t really think of anything else!

How about relationships? Parents, friends, girl friend?

“Well I go out with work friends. I also have one good best friend and everyone else fits in somewhere else. I’ve known my best friend for 8 years now.

Have you ever sought out professional psychiatry?

“No, definitely not.”

Do you have a specific religious practice or philosophy?

“This is my favorite quote: I often wonder how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet, sets less value on his own opinion of himself then on the opinion of others.”

Interview #2 – Paramedic/ER Tech

 

What is your job?

“Paramedic.”

What other emergency jobs have you had?

“EMT, tech at Children’s.”

How long have you been in emergency medicine as a whole (all jobs combined)?

“EMS for over five years.”

What was your perception of the job when you started?

“Just like most brand new EMTs I thought I was going to be such a badass, running crazy trauma and cardiac arrests all the time.”

What is your perception now?

“More realistic. Most calls aren’t real emergencies.  The ones that are real emergencies are the worst day of someone’s life. It might be a cool trauma that is exciting but you have to be sensitive and compassionate to the patients and the family members.”

When thinking about specific calls, or spans in your career, have you ever had…?

Flash backs?

“No.”

Depression ?

“No.”

Have you suffered from loneliness?

“No, the majority of my friends are in the same field so I never feel alone. I always have people to talk to that get it.”

Have you ever had a lack of personal care: stop eating, cleaning, ect.?

“Sometimes after a long day I don’t feel like cleaning my house  but it’s definitely not a chronic problem.”

Have you ever noticed that you are easy to anger or, “short fuse.” –

“Sometimes. I have noticed that I snap at my partner occasionally on high stress calls. It’s not intentional, I like my partner, but if we have a really sick patient and things aren’t happening fast enough I’ve been known to snap a bit.”

Have you ever struggled with substance abuse, alcohol, food, or drugs?

“[…]I wouldn’t say alcohol abuse but I definitely drink more now that I’m in EMS than I did before. I think a lot of things play into that – my friends, being a little older, activities I do that involve drinking – but a lot of times after a long day I’m like “a beer sounds great”. And by long day I mean like we ran 12 calls in 12 hours and I’m pooped. I’ve never thought “wow that call was so sad and f***ed up, I need a drink right now”. I’ve never tried to suppress my feelings about calls I’ve run or patients I’ve had by drinking.”

What have you done to fight stresses of the job? Do you have any hobbies?

 “Running, yoga, hiking, walking.”

Relationships?…

“Spending time with friends/my fiancé.”

Have you ever gotten professional psychiatry?

“No.”

Do you take any medication?

“When I was in paramedic school I got an ambien prescription because I could not fall asleep at night. I was incredibly stressed and I would just lay awake in bed for hours. It helped a lot, I only took half a pill and only when I really could not fall asleep. I still have like 4 of the 30 I got left. I don’t take any other medications.”

Religion/spiritual practices/philosophy?

“ I guess you could say yoga is a spiritual practice. I always feel like a weight has been lifted after going to yoga.”

What do you feel has changed about you personally from your first day to now?

“I think I understand a lot more. I realized that there is always something new to learn. I ask questions constantly trying to understand more. I have a more realistic view of EMS…and the world I think.”

 

What advice would you give to a person in their first year of the job in order to have a long, happy career?

“Do something else! Kidding. It is not your emergency, slow down, try not to get too flustered on calls. Find healthy ways to de-stress, like exercising and hanging out with friends. Try not to bring work home, but when it just sticks with you have friends in the field you can talk to. For me, talking about the bad ones always makes me feel better.”

 

 

Interview #3 – Emergency Room Nurse

What is your job, and how long have you been doing it?

“I’ve been an RN for 10 years, 5 of which I specialized in pulmonary medicine. A lot of bad things happened in pulmonary medicine so I moved on.”

What was your perception of the job when you started?

“I was a new grad so of course I was excited. I knew it would be difficult but I’d have a direct impact on lives.”

What is your perception now?

“I’ve come to learn that there are good and bad things about the job. I was right about me having an impact on lives, and about it being difficult sometimes – but I’ve learned that I could never do a desk job.”

When thinking about specific calls, or spans in your career, have you ever had…?

…Nightmares?

“Yes, when I was a new grad I had a lot of nightmares about me failing my patients. In one dream I remember feeling confused and I wasn’t able to do what people were asking me to do in my dream.

…Depression?

“Yes, there was a stretch in my career when I had two pretty difficult patients back to back. Both of them died in the same room within weeks of each other. I was depressed for a few months after that happened.”

Have you ever re-experienced fear from a smell or noise?

“It wasn’t a smell or noise, but any time I’d be in that room where those two patients died, I would feel anxious. But it would only be when I was alone in that room, if we had a different patient in there, or someone was in the room with me, I would be okay.”

Have you wanted to isolate yourself?

“Yes, I felt like that pretty often. I just lacked the energy to be with people. It was like that for the last two years after I left pulmonary medicine. I like this Urgent care that I work in because it’s a lot slower paced.

Have you ever noticed that you are easy to anger or, “short fuse.” –

“Yeah, I did. It happened most when I worked a lot of days in a row. I would get angry with everyone, patients, coworkers, you name it.”

Have you ever struggled with substance abuse, alcohol, food, or drugs?

“Well, I never got too heavy into drinking or smoking, but I did eat a lot more sweets. Especially when things got busier.

What have you done to fight stresses of the job? Do you have any hobbies?

 “I like to read, write and work out.

Have you ever gotten professional psychiatry?

“No.”

Do you take any medication?

“No.”

Religion/spiritual practices/philosophy?

“My philosophy is to just leave it at work. You have to try to not bring that stuff home with you. When you step out those doors it’s time for you to enjoy life.”

What do you feel has changed about you personally from your first day to now?

“I feel much more comfortable in stressful situations. Not just at work, but outside of work too.”

What advice would you give to a person in their first year of the job in order to have a long, happy career?

“You have to take care of yourself. You’ve to eat right, sleep well, take breaks when you need them and focus why went into the career in the first place.”

Interview #4 – Firefighter, ER Tech, and Paramedic

 What is your job?

“Tech at Childrens Hospistal, Volunteer Firefighter/paramedic at Lafayette Fire department.”

What other emergency jobs have you had?

EMT, Paramedic.”

How long have you been doing it?

“3 years”

How long have you been in emergency medicine as a whole (all jobs combined)?

“6 years.”

What was your perception of the job when you started?

“Rescuing Kittens and saving babies.”

What is your perception now?

“That we are there to help people no matter the situation they may be in.”

When thinking about specific calls, or spans in your career, have you ever had…?

…Have you ever had flash backs?

“Yes”

Nightmares

“No.”

Flash backs that were triggered by a particular noises or smell?

“Yes.”

Increased anxiety

“No”

Depression

“No”

Avoidance?

“No”

Easy to anger, “short fuse,” or jumpy?

“No.”

Do you know anyone who you’ve suspected, or have been diagnosed, with PTSD?

“Yes.”

What do you think pushed them to that?

“I think that everyone has different ways of dealing with emotional distress. If you haven’t found a healthy way to deal with it you can find it consuming your life. We all see things in this field, the key is to not put an emotional attachment on anything that happens or that you see in this career.”

What did they do/not do?

“Committed suicide. They didn’t get help or ask their friends for help. I feel like people think they will be viewed as weak if they ask for help.”

What have you done to fight stresses of the job? Do you have…

…Hobbies?

“Working out, playing golf, playing hockey, building cornhole sets, fixing up our house, staying active is the most important thing.”

…Helpful Relationships?

“Married with 1 daughter, and a son on the way. Make sure you talk to these people.”

…Professional psychiatry?

“None”

…Medication

“None”

…Religion/spiritual practices/philosophy

“I am a Christian. I feel like God is an important factor that has kept me healthy to date in this career. We see some hard things and you need someone that always understands.”

Define what “burnout” means to you.

“Means that you have lost your ability to cope with what you have seen. You have to maintain your effective ways of dealing with things throughout your career. When you loss those you lose your ability to cope.”

What advice would you give to a person in their first year of the job in order to have a long, happy career?

“You have to figure out what works for you coping wise. Know that this career isn’t all rainbows and ice cream. It’s hard work and you see things you never thought you would see. But you also help people that appreciate your help. Hang on to your positive outlook on it. Make sure if you feel yourself becoming  negative you correct it before you end up doing something that endangers your own life or someone else’s. Never be afraid to ask for help or someone to talk to.”

Interview #5 –  ER Tech, Firefighter, EMT:

What Emergency jobs have you had? 

“Fire Fighter , EMT”

How long have you been in emergency medicine as a whole (all jobs combined)?

“20 years”

 What was your perception of the job when you started? 

That is was all glory and amazing!!!  The chance to be the “hero” and save everyone.

What is your perception now?   

There is a “dark side” of stress and guilt

 When thinking about specific calls, or spans in your career, have you ever had…?

Have you ever had flash backs?

 Yes

Nightmares?

 yes

Re-experiencing fear?

 yes

Particular noises or smells?

both noises and smells

Increased anxiety?

yes

Depression?

 yes

Avoidance?    

Yes

Seeking isoloation?

yes

Avoiding crowds

yes

Loneliness

yes

Lack of personal care: stop eating, cleaning, ect.

no

Easy to anger or, “short fuse.”

Greatly increased

Always on guard, or jumpy

yes

Substance abuse, alcohol, food, drug 

  yes

Do you have an increased desire for adrenalin stimulation. Taking more risks

absolutely, can’t get enough

Fearing the anniversary of an event

absolutely

Do you know anyone who you’ve suspected, or have been diagnosed, with PTSD?

Yes

What do you think pushed them to that?

Stress of the job, keeping at it

What did they do/not do?

Didn’t seek help , refused to talk about it

What have you done to fight stresses of the job?

Do you have hobbies?

 a little

Relationships?

yes

Professional psychiatry?

yes

Medication?

yes

Religion/spiritual practices/philosophy?

yes 

What do you feel has changed about you personally from your first day to now?

I have succumbed to burnout and depression.  Rarely see the good in people anymore

Define what “burnout” means to you.     

Burnout is the loss of compassion and willingness to help. Calls are more of a hassle then a chance to help.

What advice would you give to a person in their first year of the job in order to have a long, happy career?

   Seek help right away. Stress and PTSD will creep up fast. Talk about your bad calls and be honest.

 

 

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