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It’s not just PTSD: Stress disorders in EMS

Dr. Ginny Renkiewicz shares research on vicarious trauma, post-traumatic stress, and the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic


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Ginny Renkiewicz, PhD, is an assistant professor of healthcare administration in the College of Health Sciences and Human Services at Methodist University, Fayetteville North Carolina. Dr. Renkiewicz has been involved in EMS for 21 years as a credentialed paramedic, administrator and leader. Her specific research interests include defining predictors and profiling traumatic stress syndromes in EMS personnel and she recently had two papers published in the U.K. and U.S. on subjects related to her research interests.

In this edition of EMS One-Stop, Rob Lawrence and Dr. Renkiewicz discuss her publications, “Secondary trauma response in emergency services systems (STRESS) project: quantifying and predicting vicarious trauma in emergency medical services personnel,” which discusses the emotional countertransference that occurs between the clinician and patient, and “Maladaptive Cognitions in EMS Professionals as a Function of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which analyzes how the coronavirus disease pandemic has profoundly affected EMS professionals.


“I don’t think we will ever go back to normal; this is kind of like 911. There was before 9/11, and there was after 9/11, and this is going to be before COVID, and after COVID.”

Vicarious trauma is emotional counter, transference; essentially, you are feeling what the patient feels when they’re experiencing a traumatic event. Example being, if you had a call, for example, a stillbirth, you may for the following weeks or months have this weird aversion to children or things in which infants are involved and you may have a stress response to those situations in the same way that the patient would have.”

“Post traumatic stress injury is not the only stress disorder that exists out there. It is the one that I think most frequently cited by educators and administrators, because we don’t know all of the other more insidious stress disorders, of which vicarious trauma is one.”

“A predictor of having vicarious trauma as an EMS professional; my hypothesis is that if your parents or whomever your caregivers are do not teach you how to appropriately and emotionally cope with anything in any situation, it becomes very difficult for you to know how to do it properly in your adult life and so you overcompensate, and so vicarious trauma occurs in that population.”


1:12 – Introduction: Dr. Ginny Renkiewicz

1:55 – Ginny’s academic career

3:00 – The development of research on EMS

4:50 – Paper discussion – secondary trauma response

09:00 – Education on stress disorders

11:24 – Therapy dog program

12:30 – Next steps/further work on resilience training

1530 – Maladaptive cognitions

17:20 – Getting published in the SOM Journal

19:00 – Learning, conclusions and takeaways

23:00 – The new normal

24:18 – Call to action for leaders

26:13 – NHTSA Listening Group on wellness, resilience and peer support programs

27:30 – Getting involved in research

31:00 – NAEMT Lighthouse leadership program



Dr. Ginny Renkiewicz is an assistant professor of healthcare administration in the College of Health Sciences and Human Services Methodist University, Fayetteville, North Carolina. She has been involved in EMS for 21 years as a credentialed paramedic and Level II paramedic instructor. She has spent 17 years as a program director, division chair or department head and has been recognized for her contribution to the EMS profession as a Fellow of the Academy of Emergency Medical Services (FAEMS) through the National Association of EMS Physicians. She has won several national and international awards, including National EMS Educator of the Year and the global EMS10 Award for innovation in the field of EMS.

She holds an Associate of Applied Science in Sign Language Interpreting degree from Wilson Community College, a Bachelor of Science in Emergency Medical Care with a concentration in EMS management and a Master of Health Science in EMS education (both from Western Carolina University), and a Ph.D. in Health Science with a concentration in Respiratory Care from Rush University. Dr. Renkiewicz is a reviewer for several peer-reviewed journals; serves as executive director of the Foundation for Prehospital Medicine Research; and is enthusiastic about research, innovation and student mentoring. She is also the vice chair of the North Carolina Association of EMS Educators. Her specific research interests include defining predictors and profiling traumatic stress syndromes in EMS personnel.



Twitter: @DrKrankyPants



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Rob Lawrence has been a leader in civilian and military EMS for over a quarter of a century. He is currently the director of strategic implementation for PRO EMS and its educational arm, Prodigy EMS, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and part-time executive director of the California Ambulance Association.

He previously served as the chief operating officer of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (Virginia), which won both state and national EMS Agency of the Year awards during his 10-year tenure. Additionally, he served as COO for Paramedics Plus in Alameda County, California.

Prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 2008, Rob served as the COO for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk County, England, and as the executive director of operations and service development for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust. Rob is a former Army officer and graduate of the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served worldwide in a 20-year military career encompassing many prehospital and evacuation leadership roles.

Rob is a board member of the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration (AIMHI) as well as chair of the American Ambulance Association’s State Association Forum. He writes and podcasts for EMS1 and is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with him on Twitter.