Wellbeing of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services Personnel in a Challenging Work Context : A Qualitative Study

Helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) personnel provide on-scene trauma care to patients with high mortality risk. Work in the HEMS setting is characterized by frequent exposure to critical incidents and other stressors. The aim of this study was to further our understanding of the factors underlying HEMS personnel wellbeing to inform organizations regarding workplace interventions that can be implemented to support employees.

We conducted 16 semi-structured interviews with HEMS personnel from a university hospital in The Netherlands. Interview topics included work context, personal characteristics, coping, work engagement, and psychosocial support. To analyze the data, we used a generic qualitative research approach inspired by grounded theory, including open, axial, and selective coding.

The analysis revealed ten categories that provide insight into factors underlying the wellbeing of HEMS personnel and their work context: team and collaboration, coping, procedures, informal peer support, organizational support and follow-up care, drives and motivations, attitudes, other stressors, potentially traumatic events, and emotional impact. Various factors are important to their wellbeing, such as working together with colleagues and social support. Participants reported that HEMS work can have an emotional impact on wellbeing, yet they use multiple strategies to cope with various stressors. The perceived need for organizational support and follow-up care is low among participants.

This study identifies factors and strategies that support the wellbeing of HEMS personnel. It also provides insight into the HEMS work culture and help-seeking behavior in this population. Findings from this study may benefit employers by shedding much-needed light on factors that HEMS personnel feel affect wellbeing.


Merel M. van Herpen, David Nieuwe Weme, Marcel A. de Leeuw, Renske J. Colenbrander, Miranda Olff & Hans te Brake | 2024
In: Prehospital Emergency Care ; ISSN: 1545-0066 | 28 | 2 | 308-317
Air Traffic Accidents, Emergency Personnel, Emotional States, Netherlands, Stressors, Traumatic events