Today, tomorrow, or next year? Coping with PTSD in EMS

Most of the time, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to non-urgent emergencies but there are also “rough” calls that are traumatic and disturbing


By Allison G. S. Knox, M.A., EMT-B, faculty member at American Military University

Most of the time, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to non-urgent emergencies but there are also “rough” calls that are traumatic and disturbing. In recognition of National EMS Week and National Mental Health Month, EMTs must take a moment to realize that such traumatic calls may not bother them today, tomorrow, or next week. However, such calls have a way of seeping into the crevices of one’s subconscious and impacting a person months or even years down the road. Incidents can impact EMTs differently and for different reasons. Some EMTs are affected because of the mechanism of the injury, for a personal reason (i.e. EMTs who are parents responding to an injured child), or by calls that didn’t go as expected.

The Reality of PTSD
​Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious psychological issue that can affect people who work in public safety communities. Whether a person is a service member, police officer, firefighter, or EMT—many suffer from PTSD. I have often heard individuals say they think someone is suffering from PTSD shortly after an event. What we know about PTSD is that it often isn’t that fast-acting and there is no quick fix when it comes to treating someone suffering with it.

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