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Resilience and stress in paramedics before and during COVID-19

Photo credit: vadimgouida, iStockphoto

Keywords: COVID-19, Paramedics, Resiliency

Why was the study done?

Paramedic work is demanding both physically and mentally, and paramedics are more likely to experience mental health issues than members of the general public. In March, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This pandemic has stressed health care systems around the world and put paramedic health and the health of their friends and family at greater risk.

Studies have shown that personal resources, including resilience, are important in coping with stress like that seen in the pandemic.

The current study looked at the following:

  • The role of resilience in the experience of stress during the pandemic;
  • differences in stress levels before and during COVID-19; and
  • the aspects of resilience that lowered stress during COVID-19.

What was done in the study?

In 2019 (Oct/Nov), 75 paramedics were surveyed using measures of stress ( 3 scales: emotional tension, external stress, and internal stress) and resilience (5 factors: perseverance and determination, openness to new experiences and sense of humour, competencies and tolerance of negative emotions, tolerance of failure and treating life as a challenge, and optimism and ability to mobilize in diverse situations). The survey was rerun in 2020 (May/June) with 84 paramedics (71 who had previously completed the survey).

What did we find out?

  • Paramedics surveyed reported higher levels of internal stress before the pandemic.
  • There was no change in emotional tension or external stress between the two time periods.
  • The resilience factor tolerance of failure and treating life as a challenge was higher during the pandemic vs. before.
  • The resilience factor optimism and ability to mobilize in diverse situations was lower during the pandemic.
  • Of the paramedics surveyed, the lower their resilience scores, the higher they scored on the measure of stress.
  • Paramedics who had contact with COVID-19 patients had higher stress levels than those with no contact.
  • When comparing factors of resilience and stress during the pandemic, the researchers found the following:
    • Those with higher scores in perseverance and determination had lower scores on emotional tension and external stress
    • Those with higher scores in competencies and tolerance of negative emotions had lower scores on internal stress.

Where do we go from here?

This study looking at changes during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that aspects of stress decreased or stayed the same near the beginning of the pandemic. This appears to be a result of paramedics activating resilience coping strategies during the first COVID wave. More research would be needed to see if this pattern changed as the pandemic progressed or if there will be differences once the pandemic is over. However, this small sample does show a relationship between stress and resilience, specifically that, higher levels of resilience led to lower levels of stress during the first wave of the pandemic.

The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.


Original Study

Piotrowski, A., Makarowski, R., Predoiu, R., Predoiu, A., & Boe O. (2021). Resilience and subjectively experienced stress among paramedics prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 12:664540.

Summary prepared by Kossick, E. Edited and reviewed by Barootes, B.



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