Southwestern

Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Newsroom


Student Receives Grant To Conduct Study On Paramedics and Stress

Volunteering as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in her hometown of Spring, Texas, Southwestern University junior Melanie Stanzer saw firsthand the pressure that EMTs can be under.

They constantly are confronted with life and death situations, and the shifts often go for 24 hours. The high levels of stress can have a negative impact on job performance, which in turn can compromise patient care.

The aspiring physician decided she wanted to do something about it. Last spring, she, together with her faculty mentor at Southwestern, Fay Guarraci, and Allen Sims, director of operations for the Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Service, submitted a grant proposal to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services to conduct a study on paramedics and stress. They were recently notified that the proposal was one of only two proposals nationwide to receive funding. Stanzer will use the grant to conduct a study titled “Stress, Social Support and Partner Preference of Paramedics.” The project will investigate the preferred working conditions of paramedics.

“If we can identify the conditions paramedics are most happy working under, hopefully that will translate to better patient care,” Stanzer said. “It also will help 911 services determine what combination of EMT levels works most efficiently on calls.”

She also plans to study stress levels and the social support that paramedics have available to them, both from co-workers as well as family and friends.

“People who have social support tend to do things better, even under stressful conditions,” Stanzer said. A particularly unique aspect of the study is that it will measure the effect of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Texas paramedics, many of whom were sent to Louisiana. Stanzer is contemplating a follow-up study in six months to assess stress in paramedics a year after the disasters. This research could help first responders deal better with future natural disasters.

Stanzer plans to conduct the study on more than 150 paramedics from Harris County and Montgomery County. She already has distributed many of the surveys and hopes to have all her data by December.

Stanzer’s research will be published in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services and she will present her work at the 2007 EMS Today Conference and Exposition.

Fay Guarraci, who is an assistant professor of psychology at Southwestern, said even though she is only an undergraduate, Stanzer hasn’t been daunted by the challenge of going into the community and doing research.

“She really wants to make things better for paramedics,” Guarraci said.

A graduate of Klein High School, Stanzer has been volunteering with the Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Service for the past two years. She currently is studying psychology at Southwestern University and hopes to pursue a career as an emergency room physician.

Stanzer is the daughter of Silvana and Harald Stanzer of Spring. Her mother also is a volunteer emergency medical technician with the Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Service.