S22: Impact of Cumulative Trauma Experience, Performance and Well-being in Female First Responders

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By September 4, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Helen Frazer

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Impact of Cumulative Trauma Experience, Performance and Well-being in Female First Responders

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Helen is a Registered Nurse and Midwife with skills and qualifications in intensive care, aeromedical retrieval and emergency nursing. Helen has transferred these skills to the area of research and is currently undertaking a PhD through the University of Adelaide in the area of cumulative trauma effect on female first responders.

The potential cumulative burden of stress on First Responders (FRs) is well documented. FRs consist of various populations including: ambulance, fire, police, defence force and emergency department personnel. FRs are frequently exposed to high levels of traumatic presentations which vary in type and intensity. If the FR is unable to reconcile traumatic events and debrief, their feelings can develop into accumulated stress, culminating in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The emergency response population contains a smaller number of females compared to males. A literature review in the area of cumulative stress and first responders is extensive. The majority of authors identify the key indicators of cumulative stress and general overall management strategies, without reference to specific gender effects.
A literature review has identified research which explores the impact of stress on the first responder workforce, but is not gender specific. This limitation makes it difficult to determine if males and females react differently to stress and challenges in emergency situations. Identifying differences may assist in tailoring identification, management and treatment of cumulative stress in individuals. This presentation will outline the current research being undertaken in this area, with a focus on the lived experience of female FR performance and well-being.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objective 1: The audience will learn about current literature available on this topic and the current research project being undertaken. They will take away knowledge on the particular challenges females face in first responder workforces and how additional stressors (family, violence, bullying etc.) can impact their long term health and well-being.

Learning Objective 2: This topic is relevant to mental health services and mental health issues as it explores an area where there is to date, very little research available. First Responders are increasingly being exposed to hazards outside of their control. The long-term impact of cumulative trauma that is not addressed frequently leads to PTSD. Providing information on how these impact occur and long-term effects will better equip the mental health workforce to identify and work with first responder organizations and individuals affected by ongoing trauma exposure.


Obosi, A & Oxinowo, H (2016). 'Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among First Responders: Role of Personality Traits and Category of Responder', Research on Humanities and Social Science, vol. 6, no. 10, 80-86

Healy, S &Tyrrell, M (2011). 'Stress in Emergency Departments: experiences of nurses and doctors', Emergency Nurse, vol. 19, no. 4, 31-37 <

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