Lessons in post-disaster self-care from 9/11 paramedics and emergency medical technicians

Erin Smith, Tony Walker, Frederick M. Burkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The objective of this study was to explore preferred self-care practices among paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack (9/11) in New York City (New York USA).Design, Setting, and Participants: Qualitative research methodology with convenience and subsequent snowball sampling was utilized. Participants were adult (at least 18 years of age) paramedics or EMTs who self-reported as responding to the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City.Main Outcome Measures: Preferred self-care practices; participant characteristics; indications and patterns of self-care use; perceived benefits and harms; and views on appropriate availability of support and self-care services were the main outcome measures.Results: The 9/11 paramedic and EMT participants reported a delay in recognizing the need for self-care. Preferred physical self-care practices included exercise, good nutrition, getting enough sleep, and sticking to routine. Preferred psychosocial self-care practices included spending time with family and friends, participating in peer-support programs and online support forums, and routinely seeing a mental health professional. Self-care was important for younger paramedics and EMTs who reported having less-developed supportive infrastructure around them, as well as for retiring paramedics and EMTs who often felt left behind by a system they had dedicated their lives to. Access to cooking classes and subsidized gym memberships were viewed as favorable, as was the ability to include family members in self-care practices.Conclusion(s): A range of physical and psychosocial self-care practices should be encouraged among paramedic students and implemented by Australian ambulance services to ensure the health and well-being of paramedics throughout their career and into retirement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-339
Number of pages5
JournalPrehospital and disaster medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • 9/11
  • emergency medical technician
  • EMT
  • paramedic
  • self-care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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