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Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 20(10)2023 05 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20239631


Emergency Medical Services (EMS) clinicians provide patient care within a high-stakes, unpredictable, and complex work environment in which conflict is inevitable. Our objective was to explore the extent to which added stressors of the pandemic exacerbated EMS workplace conflict. We administered our survey to a sample of U.S. nationally certified EMS clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2022. Out of 1881 respondents, 46% (n = 857) experienced conflict and 79% (n = 674) provided free-text descriptions of their experience. The responses were analyzed for themes using qualitative content analysis, and they were then sorted into codes using word unit sets. Code counts, frequencies, and rankings were tabulated, enabling quantitative comparisons of the codes. Of the fifteen codes to emerge, stress (a precursor of burnout) and burnout-related fatigue were the key factors contributing to EMS workplace conflict. We mapped our codes to a conceptual model guided by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report on using a systems approach to address clinician burnout and professional well-being to explore implications for addressing conflict within that framework. Factors attributed to conflict mapped to all levels of the NASEM model, lending empirical legitimacy to a broad systems approach to fostering worker well-being. Our findings lead us to propose that active surveillance (enhanced management information and feedback systems) of frontline clinicians' experiences during public health emergencies could increase the effectiveness of regulations and policies across the healthcare system. Ideally, the contributions of the occupational health discipline would become a mainstay of a sustained response to promote ongoing worker well-being. The maintenance of a robust EMS workforce, and by extension the health professionals in its operational sphere, is unquestionably essential to our preparedness for the likelihood that pandemic threats may become more commonplace.

Burnout, Professional , COVID-19 , Emergency Medical Services , Humans , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Burnout, Professional/epidemiology , Burnout, Psychological , Surveys and Questionnaires , Workforce