Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Indirect exposure to the trauma of others: The experiences of 9-1-1 telecommunicators
by Troxell, Roberta Mary, D.P.H., University of Illinois at Chicago, 2008, 286; 3335425
Abstract (Summary)

Telecommunicators, the call-takers and dispatchers of public safety communication centers, routinely handle telephone calls from citizens and police radio transmissions from officers who have directly experienced traumatic events. This cross-sectional study examined the effects of such secondary exposure on their personal and professional lives using qualitative and survey methodology in an attempt to define sources of risk and resilience.

A pilot study of the survey instrument was conducted in which 16 participants completed the survey and a face-to-face semistructured interview. Revisions were made on the basis of their recommendations to improve clarity and relevancy of items. The survey instrument included questions on personal demographics, work and background history, emotional labor, compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress.

Participants for the main study were a convenience sample of employees at 79 supporting communication centers in Illinois. Two waves of mailings resulted in the return of 497 surveys (50.9%).

Assessment of career exposure to trauma was consistent with Criteria A1 and A2 of the DSM-IV-TR. The findings confirmed that telecommunicators are exposed to potentially traumatic as well as traumatic calls. Descriptions of their most troubling, disturbing, or distressing call of their careers enabled identification of several themes as to why this was true: the type of call, the words and emotional reactions of the caller, the background sounds, and the emotional reactions of the telecommunicator.

The three outcomes of this study were measured using the Professional Quality of Life scale. Prevalence for each outcome was defined as those scoring more than one standard deviation above the mean. For compassion satisfaction, the prevalence, or those with the highest potential for compassion satisfaction, was 15.1%. There were 14.7% found to be at risk for burnout and 16.3% at risk for secondary traumatic stress.

Relevancy of the findings to psychological stress theory are discussed. Implications for individual and organizational self-care practices are explored. Areas for further research on sources of risk and resilience are highlighted.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chavez, Noel
School: University of Illinois at Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mental health, Occupational health, Public health
Keywords: 911 operators, Burnout, Secondary stress, Telecommunicators, Trauma
Publication Number: 3335425
ISBN: 978-0-549-88925-0
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