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Frozen moments: flashback memories of critical incidents in emergency personnel


Kleim, Birgit; Bingisser, Martina-Barbara; Westphal, Maren; Bingisser, Roland (2015). Frozen moments: flashback memories of critical incidents in emergency personnel. Brain and Behavior, 5(7):e00325.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Emergency Department personnel regularly face highly stressful situations or critical incidents (CIs) that may subsequently be recalled as unbidden intrusive memories. In their most extreme form, such memories are reexperienced as if they were happening again in the present, as flashbacks. This study examined (1) which CIs are associated with flashback memories; (2) candidate person and work-related features that predict flashback memories; and (3) the association between flashback memories and anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion.

METHODS: Emergency nurses (N = 91; 80.2% female) were recruited from two urban teaching hospitals and filled in self-report questionnaires.

RESULTS: A majority (n = 59, 65%) experienced intrusive memories; almost half of the sample reported that their memories had flashback character. Those involved in resuscitations in the past week were at a fourfold risk for experiencing flashbacks. Having worked more consecutive days without taking time off was associated with a somewhat lower incidence of flashbacks. Moreover, older individuals who reported more work-related conflicts were at greater risk for experiencing flashback memories than their younger colleagues with heightened work conflict and flashback memory scores, respectively. Flashback memories were associated with heightened symptoms of anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion.

CONCLUSIONS: The present findings have implications for evidence-based health promotion in emergency personnel and other individuals regularly exposed to CIs.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Emergency Department personnel regularly face highly stressful situations or critical incidents (CIs) that may subsequently be recalled as unbidden intrusive memories. In their most extreme form, such memories are reexperienced as if they were happening again in the present, as flashbacks. This study examined (1) which CIs are associated with flashback memories; (2) candidate person and work-related features that predict flashback memories; and (3) the association between flashback memories and anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion.

METHODS: Emergency nurses (N = 91; 80.2% female) were recruited from two urban teaching hospitals and filled in self-report questionnaires.

RESULTS: A majority (n = 59, 65%) experienced intrusive memories; almost half of the sample reported that their memories had flashback character. Those involved in resuscitations in the past week were at a fourfold risk for experiencing flashbacks. Having worked more consecutive days without taking time off was associated with a somewhat lower incidence of flashbacks. Moreover, older individuals who reported more work-related conflicts were at greater risk for experiencing flashback memories than their younger colleagues with heightened work conflict and flashback memory scores, respectively. Flashback memories were associated with heightened symptoms of anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion.

CONCLUSIONS: The present findings have implications for evidence-based health promotion in emergency personnel and other individuals regularly exposed to CIs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Behavioral Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:July 2015
Deposited On:07 Nov 2019 13:31
Last Modified:11 May 2020 19:14
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:2162-3279
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.325
PubMed ID:26221567
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPZ00P1_126597
  • : Project TitlePsychological and Biological Mechanisms of Stress Resilience
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPZ00P1_150812
  • : Project TitlePsychological and biological mechanisms of stress resilience

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