Document Type

Research Paper


The daily occupational stressors that paramedics must deal with, place these individuals at higher risk for physiological distress and burnout than the general population. Recently, attention has been focused on trying to identify the correlates of occupational stress. A review of the literature indicated that peer support, attitude towards emotional expression, and ways of coping may be predictive of psychological distress and burnout symptoms among this group of professionals. The current pilot study focused on paramedic students in the final year of their college program. Using a pre-test, post-test design, including a treatment and control group, this study sought to determine whether perceived peer support, negative attitude towards emotional expression, and specific coping processes, would be significantly predictive of levels of self-reported psychological distress and burnout symptomology. Further, a 13-session psychoeducational counselling group intervention was used with the treatment group, to determine if this intervention might be helpful in encouraging significant positive changes in the tress areas of interest, which might then be related to a corresponding reduction in psychological distress and burnout symptoms. While peer support was not found to be significantly correlated to psychological distress and burnout symptomology, both negative attitude toward emotional expression and specific coping processes were. Other interesting trends emerged in that between-group comparison indicated greater improvement among individuals in the treatment group, as compared to the control group, with respect to: attitude toward emotional expression’ two types of coping processes (i.e., Planful Problem Solving, Positive Reappraisal); and Personal Accomplishment scores (which contribute to lower burnout). Additionally, while the two groups did not differ significantly in terms of the changes demonstrated on the 7 individual variables used to measure psychological distress and the 3 variables assessing burnout, the treatment group did demonstrate greater improvement than the control group on 10/10 of these variables which in itself is significant. This pilot study underscores the need for additional studies to verify and investigate the correlates of occupational stress among paramedics, and to ultimately find means to influence these variables with the goal of increasing resiliency among this group of professionals.

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