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Psychological first aid for emergency medical technicians: Can it work?

Keywords: Training, Traumatic events

From left to right: Marine Tessier, Project researcher, Universite de Montreal; Dr. Steve Geoffrion, Adjunct professor in Psychoeducation, Universite de Montreal; appearing at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference November, 2019.

Title of Research

Psychological first aid for emergency medical technicians: Can it work?


Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are one of many public safety personnel populations at risk for developing post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSIs). EMTs face potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs) on a regular basis, but there is still a lack of efficient evidence-based early interventions that can help mitigate PTSIs. Multiple health organizations and international experts on PTSI have recommended Psychological First Aid (PFA) be available as a possible tool for helping to mitigate PTSI.

PFA is designed to be provided in the hours following a PPTE and focuses on providing elements considered beneficial to well-being. The PFA elements include: safety, calmness, connectedness, and hope. PFA encourages the worker to disclose details about the PPTE and the associated emotions they experienced. PFA also involves encouraging workers to minimize the impact of the PPTE. PFA promotes continuous assessment of needs and PTSI symptoms in an effort to connect people with potentially beneficial resources.

Currently there is not enough scientific knowledge regarding the effectiveness of PFA. The current study, done in collaboration with Urgences-Santé (Montreal’s EMT Corporation), is designed to help fill the knowledge gap regarding PFA effectiveness.

The study team will document the process of implementation of PFA offered to workers by peer helpers. By researching the implementation, the study team will be able to identify benefits and barriers associated with the PFA program. The study team will also collect feedback on the types of actions provided by the PFA program that were perceived as helpful by the workers who experienced the PPTE. The research results will allow for recommendations regarding PFA and peer support. The results may help produce an evidence-base for PFA effectiveness that could support broader program implementation.

When to expect results

The team began data collection in July 2019 and expects to provide initial results about implementation at the end of grant workshop. . They hope that the remaining results on the acceptability and effectiveness of PFA will be available by the end of 2020.

For more information about the project please visit:  You can also contact the Principal Investigator ( for more information about PFA and how you could participate to the research project.

Research Team

Dr. Steve Geoffrion is an Adjunct Professor in Psychoeducation at Université de Montréal and co-director at the Trauma Studies Center of the Montreal University Mental Health Institute (MUMHI). Dr. Geoffrion has dedicated the past years to developing an expertise on the prevention of traumatic events at work and coping strategies according to sex and gender in healthcare settings.

Dr. Stéphane Guay is a Professor in the School of Criminology at Université de Montréal, a clinical psychologist specialized in PTSD, and co-director of the Trauma Studies Center as well as the director of research center of the MUMHI. Dr. Guay’s research focuses on the evaluation of different approaches with regards to the psychological and pharmacological treatments of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Luc de Montigny is responsible for the research program at Urgences-Santé. As a co-applicant on this project and lead researcher at Urgences-Santé, Dr. de Montigny plays a major role in facilitating recruitment and promoting knowledge transfer activities.

Mrs. Josée Coulombe is an experienced clinical psychologist. Mrs. Coulombe is the principal knowledge user of this project, as results will help her improve the Urgences-santé PFA program.

Mrs. Marine Tessier is pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology at Université de Montréal. The present research will be the subject of her doctoral research project. She is co-researcher, project coordinator and responsible for the monitoring of the project.


Final Results

Final Knowledge Translation report


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