Traumatization and PTSD in Rescue Workers: Prevention, Assessment, and Interventions

  • Ilaria SettiEmail author
  • Piergiorgio Argentero
Reference work entry


As a consequence of their professional activity, rescue workers are exposed to potentially traumatic events (PTEs). Therefore, they can develop negative effects both on a personal and on an organizational level. In particular, rescuers can be considered at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In general, the prevalence of PTSD is affected by the nature, the severity, and the repetition of the exposure to traumatic events. In particular, the higher rate of post-traumatic symptoms has been observed among ambulance operators because they are exposed to greater pressure and occupational stressors, if compared to other rescuers.

As indirect witnesses of critical events, rescuers are also exposed to the “stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person” that is vicarious traumatization (VT). VT symptoms are very similar to those observed in PTSD victims, but the mental condition associated with a trauma is transmitted by the victim to the rescuer.

Despite the frequent exposure to PTEs, the majority of rescuers do not develop negative effects because they can rely on several individual and organizational protective factors, post-traumatic growth, and adaptive flexibility.


Rescue workers PTSD Vicarious traumatization VT assessment Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale Postcrisis interventions 

List of Abbreviations


Critical Incident Stress Debriefing


Critical Incident Stress Management


Potentially Traumatic Event


Post-Traumatic Growth


Vicarious Traumatization


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Unit of Applied PsychologyUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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