Competencies needed to prepare intermediate life support (ils) paramedics in Gauteng to manage traumatic stress in the work environment

Master Thesis


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This qualitative study explored the effects of trauma as well as coping mechanisms used to deal with post-traumatic stress experienced by ILS paramedics providing emergency care services in the Gauteng Province, South Africa. It also looked at the competencies needed to cope with traumatic stress and promote biopsychosocial well-being. It is argued that it is important to look at this subject from a South African perspective since most of the published research on the sources and effects of trauma on paramedics and other frontline emergency services personnel experience comes from developed countries. It was discovered that there is minimal empirical research from South Africa on similar topics, except for a study in the Cape Town metropole. In addition to that, most published research relied on quantitative data collection methods. Through qualitative case study research this thesis draws on observations and relevant data gathered by way of semi-structured face to face interviews with eleven operational Intermediate Life Support (ILS) paramedics who work in the Gauteng province. Data is gathered on the sources of stress and coping mechanisms currently used by the paramedics. The gathered data was analysed using thematic analysis. The results show that the sources of stress for paramedics include attending gruesome scenes, extreme pressure to save lives and attending a scene where a child or a colleague is involved. It was also observed that the paramedics have a set of coping strategies to manage post-traumatic stress which are both positive and negative coping strategies. In addition to interviews with ILS paramedics from whom data is gathered on their education and training, the results in this thesis gathered insight from a panel of six experts who were engaged through a focus group discussion. These experts have demonstrable expertise in curriculum development, trauma counselling and training. The panel recommended that the training of the paramedics must be more realistic such that the paramedics are better equipped to deal with the challenges they may encounter in the work environment. It was also revealed that those who train paramedics are not well equipped to deliver the health and wellness module. It can be concluded that some paramedics are not well equipped to deal with traumatic events they encounter in the field. The researcher recommends that the health and wellness module be delivered by people who are specifically trained to deal with mental health issues. Insights gathered in this study will help the paramedics, those they help and their families.