The results of a survey conducted by researchers at theCentre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeingwith 272 Australian paramedics has revealed the invaluable role of family, friends and work supervisors’ support as they go about their job.

With three years’ funding from theAustralia Research Council Linkage program(LP160100004) and industry partnersUnited Voice(QLD and NT branches) and theAmbulance Employees Association SA Inc., the study is looking at the human resource management (HRM) and employee support systems in place in emergency services organisations, with a particular focus on employee experiences of trauma and its associated mental health outcomes.

Dr Ashlea Kellner

“Progress on the project over this year has been very good, with a large portion of survey data collected and a high response rate achieved”, notedDr Ashlea Kellner(pictured left), one of two Research Fellows working on the project. “Phone surveys are being conducted across three Australian states by union employees, and data for one state has [already] undergone preliminary analysis.”

Key findings from the first round of analysis conducted byAshlea’scolleague,Dr Hanh Dao-Tran, have found:

  • Strong HRM systems and support was associated with a lower prevalence of mental health issues. The study will investigate [the circumstances around reporting when]…the HRM system is perceived not to be strong, and how it can be improved.
  • 258 of the 272 participants reported having support from their colleagues (94.9%), families and friends (93.4%), and supervisors (83.1%). Of particular note is that these informal support networks appear to have a significant value in trauma work and the team will now investigate how formal and informal systems interact and add value to the mental health of workers.

Dr Hanh Dao-Tran

This survey data will combine with new data from over 70 interviews conducted across the organisational hierarchy and will be presented in a detailed report to the industry partners next year.

The initial findings of the project will be presented by lead Chief Investigator and WOW researcher,Associate Professor Keith Townsend,Hanh(pictured right) andAshleaat theAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics in Australia and New Zealand(AIRAANZ) conference in Adelaide in February 2018.

(This story was authored by Dr Ashlea Kellner, Research Fellow, Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing).