Ambulance personnel felt high stress during pandemic


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In a study this week in PLOS One, researchers describe the mental health impact of the pandemic on ambulance personnel, showing through the findings of six studies that as many as 92.2% felt a psychological burden while working during COVID-19.

The study adds to a growing body of literature on how the pandemic affected the mental health of healthcare and emergency workers who were on the frontline of battling the pandemic. The researchers looked at six studies which used a variety of tools, including surveys to assess psychological distress and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, depression, insomnia, fear of infection and transmission of infection, and psychological burden.

"Our results indicate higher rates of distress, PTSD and insomnia compared to the pre-COVID-19 era," the authors said.

The prevalence of psychological distress was 36.0% and the prevalence of suspected PTSD (scores of clinical concern) varied from 18.5 to 30.9% in three studies that measured those outcomes. PTSD was positively correlated with years of work experience and psychological distress, and the prevalence of suspected PTSD was higher in paramedics compared to nurses (odds ratio [OR], 2.90).

High concern about passing COVID to family

Four studies looked at anxiety levels among ambulance workers. Overall, workers concerned with spreading COVID-19 to family members had higher rates of anxiety, and those who reported having access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) had lower rates of anxiety. Similar to PTSD, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was higher in paramedics compared with nurses (OR, 5.48).

Our results indicate higher rates of distress, PTSD and insomnia compared to the pre-COVID-19 era.

Only one study measured insomnia, and it showed a 60.9% prevalence rate of suspected insomnia that warranted clinical concern, the authors said.

Finally, the overall psychological burden was assessed in several studies. Self-formulated questions on burden revealed 92.2% of ambulance workers expressed psychological burden related to possible infection during work, and concern about transmission to family members.

The authors conclude the study by noting there is a dearth of research on emergency medical service workers in the pandemic. "Our results urge the need to investigate the health and well-being of ambulance care professionals during and after the COVID-19 pandemic," the authors write.

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