Resilience and health promotion in high-risk professions: A pilot study of firefighters in Canada and the United Kingdom [pre-print]
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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.