PTSD in first responders: emergency personnel’s repeated exposure to trauma can cause severe emotional stress

PTSD in first responders

PTSD in first responders is a common workplace risk -- and one that should be addressed by employers as a preemptive measure. Photo Credit: Michael Pettigrew,

By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, PhD

From firefighters and EMTs to law enforcement officers and ER nurses, emergency services personnel spend their lives on the front lines, constantly exposed not only to dangerous circumstances but also traumatic scenes and events that can leave a lasting mark. Studies have shown that PTSD in first responders and others who work under such circumstances is a common risk – one that, despite its prevalence, may be overshadowed by the physical dangers associated with emergency service careers. However, it is critical for employers and medical professionals alike to be aware of PTSD risk, and to take steps toward preventing and effectively treating the disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder on the job

Emergency service careers involve multiple hazards; and as noted in a recent report from Fire Engineering News, firefighters currently have the highest rate of injury among workers throughout the United States. But beyond physical risks, many firefighters also encounter high rates of exposure to trauma – from car accidents and medical emergencies to crime scenes – that often prompt equally high levels of emotional stress.

High risk factors for PTSD in first responders include everything from previous history with mental disorders to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, and may also arise from the pressures of rank and responsibility, proximity to death during an incident or the intensity of one’s emotional response to trauma. By comparison, one of the strongest protective factors against PTSD is the maintenance of a strong social support network, either at home or at work. To this end, it behooves employers – both in the fire service and in other emergency services – to implement effective prevention measures in the workplace, including therapy and counseling for employees struggling with emotional stress. Not only will such measures provide an outlet and means of support for workers, it will also offer early intervention – a critical element in the avoidance of lost productivity due to work-induced stress or injury, as well as disabling emotional conditions, workers compensation expenses and difficult rehabilitation procedures.

Stopping PTSD before it starts

While all hazardous occupations carry some degree of post-traumatic stress risk for employees, the nature of these jobs will vary – and by extension, so too will the best methods for strategic prevention and support. A Qualified Medical Evaluator can help employers and workers alike determine the right path to health and productivity in the workplace. To learn more, contact me via email at or visit my website for details at

Related posts:

  1. Workplace depression: mental health treatment and employee productivity
  2. Department of Veterans Affairs to increase military mental health resources
  3. On-the-job injury, pain and PTSD: pinpointing the connection in workers compensation and return to work cases
  4. Psychological testing sheds light on malingering in workers comp disability evaluations
  5. Legitimacy of workers comp stress claims highlights need for quick action, expert evaluation

Short URL:

Posted by Social Media Staff on Dec 16, 2012. Filed under Columns, Sponsored Columns, Stephen M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

La Jolla Community Calendar


Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6

RSS North Coastal News