EMS World

AUG 2016

EMS World Magazine is the most authoritative source in the world for clinical and educational material designed to improve the delivery of prehospital emergency medical care.

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50 AUGUST 2016 | EMSWORLD.com F or the past five years, faculty of the prehos- pital care program at LaGuardia Commu- nity College in New York City have studied the challenge of reducing the risk of post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for patients served by emergency medical personnel. The effort has been led by a committee of senior faculty in consulta- tion with specialists in psychological trauma affiliated with the Trauma Studies Center of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. The result is an innova- tive educational approach that gives LaGuardia's EMS and paramedic graduates the knowledge, skills and confidence to respond to the terror and panic experi- enced by many emergency patients and their families. Background In their review of epidemiological studies of the preva- lence of PTSD, Fran Norris, PhD, and Laurie Slone, PhD, of the National Center for PTSD found that at least 60% of adult American men and 51% of adult American women will at some point in their life expe- rience or witness a life-threatening event. 1 While not all persons who experience trauma go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, between 9% and 12% of Americans will at some time in their life suffer from the symptoms of PTSD as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 2 Symp- toms that can emerge shortly after a traumatic event include exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance, increased irritability, sleep disturbance, poor concen- tration and painful intrusive memories. Norris and Slone concluded that at any given time, between 2%–3% of the U.S. adult population suffers from PTSD. This figure amounts to somewhere around 6.3 million American adults. As summarized by authors Sandy McFarlane and Rachel Yehuda, rates of recovery from PTSD vary widely. 3 For example, 28% of survivors of the 1972 Buffalo Creek flood still suffered from PTSD 14 years after the event; on the other hand, a 1990 study found the PTSD rate in survivors of other f loods ranged from 4.5% to 14.5% 16 months after the disaster. 3 Given the wide disparity in recovery rates, how to prevent or at least minimize the debilitating psycho- logical consequences of traumatic events is of great significance to professionals who encounter survivors of overwhelming stress. Can PTSD be prevented? Some variables, such as severity of the trauma, previous traumatic experi- ences and pre-existing mental disorders, are beyond By Rosemary Masters, JD, LCSW Integrating psychological skills into your prehospital care

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