Health and Resilience in High-risk Professions: A Pilot Study of Firefighters in Canada and the United Kingdom

By Leigh Blaney and Vivienne Brunsden.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Organizational Studies

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study, conducted by researchers from Canada and England in collaboration with four fire rescue services, explored Canadian and UK firefighters’ experiences of distress, coping, and resilience related to workplace traumatic events. Questions addressed in the research included: Are firefighters resilient? How do firefighters define resilience? Does stress education enhance/sustain resilience? A cross sectional, mixed methods study design was used with a qualitative theoretical drive supplemented with quantitative measures to compare and contrast firefighters’ phenomenological cross-cultural experiences. Research outcomes include: a variety of diverse and intricate definitions for resilience reflecting the complexity of the concept of resilience yet demonstrating cultural commonalities across both countries; a range of reactions to critical incidents that generally fell into one or more domains: emotional, cognitive, physical, behavioural, and ‘spiritual’; a range of strategies that are implemented to cope with stress reactions - overwhelmingly ‘talking’ about the incident, reactions, and coping mechanisms is most helpful; personal and organizational attributes that assist in managing stress and stressful events within the culture of the fire service; and health promoting strategies for building resilience. The study recommendations, utilizing a health promotion lens, offer guidance in planning for, and responding to, traumatic events in high-risk professions.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Health Promotion, Resilience, Firefighters

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Organizational Studies, Volume 10, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.23-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 447.787KB).

Leigh Blaney

Nurse Educator, Faculty of Health and Human Services, Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Vivienne Brunsden

Principal Lecturer, Psychology, College of Business Law, & Social Sciences, School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Vivienne Brunsden is Principal Lecturer in Psychology and Head of Emergency Services Research Unit where she leads a multi-disciplinary team at Nottingham Trent University. She teaches on both undergraduate and postgraduate level courses with teaching responsibilities focussed primarily in the areas of applied psychology, research methods and issues relating to professional practice. Vivienne’s research is diverse and currently focussed on emergency services and disaster psychology, qualitative methodologies, and pedagogically focused research. Vivienne is Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Emergency Services, and conference convenor of Emergency Management: Themes in Emergency Planning, Response and Recovery.