Exploring the psychological health of emergency dispatch centre operatives: a systematic review and narrative synthesis

Sarah E Golding, Claire Horsfield , Annette Davies, Bernadette Egan , Martyn Jones, Mary Raleigh, Patricia Schofield, Allison Squires, Kath Start, Tom Quinn, Mark Cropley (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Abstract

Background: The study objective was to investigate and synthesize available evidence relating to the psychological health of Emergency Dispatch Centre (EDC) operatives, and to identify key stressors experienced by EDC operatives.

Methods: Eight electronic databases (Embase, PubMed, Medline, CINAHL, PsycInfo, PsycArticles, The Psychology and Behavioural Sciences Collection, and Google Scholar) were searched. All study designs were included, and no date limits were set. Studies were included if they were published in English, and
explored the psychological health of any EDC operatives, across fire, police, and emergency medical services. Studies were excluded if they related solely to other emergency workers, such as police officers or paramedics. Methodological quality of included studies was assessed using checklists adapted from the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. A narrative synthesis was conducted, using thematic analysis.

Results: A total of 16 articles were included in the review. Two overarching themes were identified during the narrative synthesis: ‘Organisational and Operational Factors’ and ‘Interactions with Others’. Stressors identified included being exposed to traumatic calls, lacking control over high workload, and working in under-resourced and pressured environments. Lack of support from management and providing an emotionally demanding service were additional sources of stress. Peer support and social support from friends and family were helpful in managing work-related stress.

Discussion: EDC operatives experience stress as a result of their work, which appears to be related to negative psychological health outcomes. Future research should explore the long-term effects of this stress, and the potential for workplace interventions to alleviate the negative impacts on psychological health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3735
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalPeerJ
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2017

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Golding, S. E., Horsfield , C., Davies, A., Egan , B., Jones, M., Raleigh, M., Schofield, P., Squires, A., Start, K., Quinn, T., & Cropley, M. (2017). Exploring the psychological health of emergency dispatch centre operatives: a systematic review and narrative synthesis. PeerJ, 5, 1-29. [e3735]. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3735