Death in the Spanish Fire Services: A curriculum development study

Juan Pablo Leiva Santos*, Helena Garcia-Llana, Victor Pablo, Maya Liébana, Allan Kellehear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to understand the need and resources firefighters have to deal with death and dying (D&D) that they encounter whilst on duty and to present a curriculum to support D&D issues for firefighters.

Design/methodology/approach
A qualitative methodology involving focus groups was conducted in two fire stations in Spain. The sample was 38 male participants with a mean age of 46 y/o (range: 30-59 years) and an average tenure of employment of 18 years (range: 6-35 years). Data were subjected to a thematic analysis. Dual coding of the transcripts in addition to member checking enhanced analysis.

Findings
Nine themes emerged: witnessing D&D during rescue operations; memories about D&D and trauma; impact on firefighter’s families; decision-making process under stress; teamwork: protective and self-support; inadequate D&D preparation and training; adequate technical and physical training preparation; relationship between equipment, legal-moral obligation, and victims’ outcomes; communication issues: toward the victim and/or their relatives. These themes were subsequently framed into three basic domains: personal impact of D&D, team impact of D&D, and victim impact. Each domain, in its turn, is covered by three curriculum topics. The curriculum’s pedagogy is primarily based on experimental-reflective activities during 16 study-hours.

Research limitations/implications
The absence of female participants. All fire stations were in cities with no more than 150,000 inhabitants.

Practical implications
Individuals who take this curriculum will: increase their ability for self-care and resilience; improve teamwork, leadership skills, and to decrease burnout; provide more effective care for victims; provide skills to cope with compassion fatigue; reduced the levels of post-traumatic stress disorders.

Originality/value
Understanding firefighters’ needs with relation to D&D, and assessing the resources available to mitigate these issues will provide a comprehensive approach to their education and promote health both personally and professionally. A comparable curriculum or proposal has not been previously identified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-82
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Services
Volume7
Issue number1
Early online date2 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Cite this