Female first responders and mental health 

7 August 2020

An Adelaide Registered Nurse and Midwife is conducting a study targeting female first responders and the cumulative impacts of the trauma they deal with on their mental health.

ANMF (SA Branch) member Helen Frazer, pictured below, says remote area nurses and emergency and retrieval nurses (e.g., RFDS, MedStar) are particularly important for this study, as they are often first on the scene at accidents and incidents in metropolitan and rural and remote areas.

Funded through the Snowdrops Hope for PTSD – Australian Medical Women’s Memorial Research Fund, affiliated with The Road Home (as part of the Hospital Research Foundation), the study hopes to hear from female first responders in a range of vocations, including police, MFS, CFS, SES, paramedics and, of course, doctors and nurses.

“What we’re really hoping to do, because there is so little research out there, we want to better understand the health and wellbeing of the current female first responder workforce,’’ said Ms Frazer, a PhD student with the University of Adelaide.

“We want to better understand how females manage work-family demands. Not all female first responders have families but there’s certain pressures on females in society and certain expectations that people have on them.

“You’ve got that combined with an emergency role, it’s really quite stressful and hard to balance.

“We’re hoping that the findings can be used to influence policy and programs in the workplace to support the needs of female first responders,’’ Ms Frazer says.

“We’re really looking to see what the differences are between males and females and where things need to be improved.

“What we do know already is that females are pretty nifty multi-taskers; most females have good support networks, they’re pretty good at talking to each other whereas men tend to be more reserved.

“What I have found in some of the early research that I’ve done is females tend to manage stress quite well but that really seems to be related to their support networks.

“There have been studies around hormonally protective effects for women in relation to stress and cortisol and how that affects their mental health. I’m hoping that will come out in the research as well.’’

The study has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee (Adelaide) and will run until October 30 this year.

Interested persons are encouraged to complete an anonymous online survey.

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