Psychological Stress

There are many extraordinary sources of psychological stress in the life of a firefighter. The expectations for performance placed on firefighters are well beyond that of other civilian occupations, with the possible exception of police. Firefighters accept a level of personal risk beyond the range of normal human experience.

Although this risk is controlled to the extent possible with fire equipment and personal protection, the reality of firefighting is that there is much that can go wrong at any fire and the course of a serious fire is often unpredictable. In addition to personal security, the firefighter must be concerned with the safety of others. A failed rescue or the death of a victim is so stressful that some firefighters who have experienced this cannot cope.

Studies of firefighters have shown high levels of job satisfaction and motivation compared to the general population, despite job-related anxiety and adjustment issues related to sleep deprivation, heavy workload or pace of work, constantly being on guard, unsatisfactory public interactions, rigid working conditions, personal risk, inconsistent instructions, and unforeseen situations.

On the other hand, firefighters exert a great deal of control over their work in the selection of approaches to knocking down the fire and the use of protective equipment. They are continually faced with new challenges because every alarm presents a different story or situation.

However, firefighters who have experienced particularly threatening situations have demonstrated adverse emotional effects. Chief among these is loss of a life during a rescue attempt or the death or serious injury on the job of a fellow firefighter.

Firefighters have been intensively studied as a model population at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder. Posttraumatic stress disorder can significantly impair in their ability to maintain social and family relationships. Firefighters who do not show the fullblown posttraumatic stress disorder may still be affected by intrusive memories and anxiety.

Incident debriefing sessions have been shown to be valuable and effective in assisting firefighters who would otherwise have difficulty coping and in reducing the short-term anxiety of those who would have been able to cope without assistance.

Firefighters are enmeshed in conflicting expectations and numerous technicalities related to the insurance industry, the legal profession, the fire service administration and politics, labor-management relations, and building codes and inspection. Firefighters may be highly trained in the technicalities of fire suppression, but may become so enmeshed unwillingly in the nontechnical aspects of the occupation that they may experience great frustration.

When inevitable mistakes happen or their judgment is questioned, firefighters may feel psychologically threatened because of the pressure to accommodate all these expectations and still manage during an evolving emergency.

On the other hand, firefighters enjoy many positive aspects of their work and social status. Firefighters have a high social standing and are considered to belong to the most highly skilled blue-collar occupation. The work itself is interesting, although highly routine between alarms. There is a high degree of autonomy and a heavy emphasis on teamwork and mutual support.

Between shifts many firefighters moonlight (have second jobs). Firefighters enjoy the high esteem of the community, the admiration of other citizens, the aspirations of children as role models, and widespread support as unequivocally positive defenders of the public good.

 






Date added: 2024-07-10; views: 15;


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