An Assessment Of Empathy In Pre-Hospital Volunteers
The primary aim was to examine whether the phenomenon of empathy decline occurs in pre-hospital ambulance volunteers, as reported by studies examining empathy in students of emergency care degrees. The second aim was to examine the difference in the levels of empathy of ambulance volunteers based on their level of pre-hospital care training and the duration of active membership. The final aim was to assess how much stress volunteers experienced in relation to volunteering in an ambulance charity and the factors that contribute to that stress.
Pre-hospital volunteers provide emergency care to the public who need it and require ongoing training. The effect of this training on prehospital volunteers remains unclear and was the aim of this study to explore. This paper answered three questions: “Is the level of empathy in pre-hospital volunteers affected by their level of training?”, “Is there a relationship between pre-hospital volunteers’ length of service and their level of empathy?” and finally, “What are the main contributors of stress for volunteers?” A cross-sectional mixed-methods design within the Order of Malta Ireland and Dun Laoghaire IADT using online and print surveys was used to answer the questions. Participants were active members of the Order of Malta Ireland (n = 83), and the control group were students and staff of Dun Laoghaire IADT (n = 33). The results indicated that volunteers reported lower empathy than the control group, with responders reporting the lowest mean empathy score. There was also no relationship between the length of service and empathy. Finally, the most stressful aspects of volunteering were time management and team cohesiveness. Suggestions such as further research to replicate the findings of this study to determine the ecological validity, determine whether training affected empathy or if care providers began with lower trait-empathy and implement training to support their interpersonal skills were some of the suggestions provided.
The result of the first question indicated there was a difference in the grouped empathy scores between the three groups (non-trained, first-aid trained and ambulance trained). A follow-up test (Scheffé post-hoc) revealed participants in the ambulance charity reported lower levels of empathy than the non-trained participants. Surprisingly, first aiders reported lower empathy than those qualified in ambulance training. Question two revealed empathy did not decline with experience, as was expected. Respondents of question three reported time management as the most stressful factor and team cohesion issues as another significant contributor.