Extent of post-traumatic stress disorder among Eastern Cape emergency care workers in the public health care sector

  • Craig Visagie Department of Emergency Medical Care, Nelson Mandela University
  • Luke van Tonder Department of Emergency Medical Care, Nelson Mandela University
  • Ruwan Prinsloo Department of Emergency Medical Care, Nelson Mandela University
  • Jared Surtees Department of Emergency Medical Care, Nelson Mandela University
  • Karin Gerber Department of Nursing Science, Nelson Mandela University
  • Pieter Huysamen Eastern Cape College, Port Elizabeth


Background: Pre-hospital emergency care workers (PECWs) often struggle to cope with an increasingly hostile environment while on duty. As a result, the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst PECWs is on the rise and negatively affects their ability to treat patients. Further, PTSD could cloud PECWs’ clinical decision-making and judgement. This ultimately places strain on emergency care departments’ resources and directly affects patient care and service delivery. The aim of the study was to determine the extent to which PECWs experience PTSD symptoms in Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB).

Methods: A quantitative design and convenience sampling method were used. The research population for this study was all operational PECWs employed by the Eastern Cape Department of Health within the emergency medical services (EMS) in NMB. Data were collected by means of a self-administered questionnaire comprising two sections; the first section focused on respondents’ demographic information, and the second section was a validated PTSD questionnaire. Descriptive and inferential statistics were reviewed using Microsoft Excel.

Results: Sixty-eight PECWs took part in the study. It was identified that of the 68 respondents, 41 (60.3%) showed symptoms of PTSD and could possibly be diagnosed with PTSD. The mean PTSD score was 42.01±17.354, ranging in the category of ‘possible diagnosis of PTSD’. The highest mean PTSD scores were reported among respondents who identified themselves as female (p<0.001). Those within the age category of 51–60 years, those who were Advanced Life Support (ALS) practitioners, and those with 20 years or more work experience also had high mean PTSD scores.

Conclusion: PTSD remains a burden on both the individual and the organisation employing the individual. This study highlighted that many PECWs employed in the Eastern Cape public health care sector showed symptoms and could be diagnosed with PTSD, with female PECWs being at the highest risk.


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Original Research