The effect of progressive muscle relaxation and stress management interventions on anxiety, stress, and locus of control of paramedics



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Job stress is a problem for paramedics and the public they serve. This stress affects paramedics personally in the form of higher measured levels of State and Trait Anxiety and on stress as measured by the Medical Personnel Stress Scale. Stress also affects paramedics professionally in the form of lower levels of services rendered and a negative attitude toward the public. It also leads to paramedics leaving the profession early, in many cases after only a few years. This experiment was designed to measure the effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) training and stress management interventions on reducing anxiety and stress and on moving locus of control toward a more internal direction. Fifty-four paramedics were assigned to one of four experimental conditions: (a) PMR training plus stress reduction exercises; (b) PMR training only; (c) an attention control group which took a medical refresher course; (d) a control group. Each group met for four treatment sessions, except for the control group, which met only twice for assessment. Post-test scores on the combined effects of State and Trait Anxiety, the Medical Personnel Stress Scale, and the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale with pre-tests removed on the same scales (MANCOVA) showed that the experimental treatments had no significant effect. Possible explanations for findings include: (a) there were too few treatment sessions; (b)paramedics may not have practiced PMR on their own as required in the experimental protocol; (c) younger paramedics may have been subtly resistant to treatment because they experience the job stress as eustress while older paramedics experience the job stress as distress; (d) and that the locus of intervention may have been too limited. That is, that the stress intervention was at the individual level only rather than at a combined individual and organizational level. Recommendations are that the number of treatment sessions be increased, other instruments be explored for measuring stress, physiological measures be used to measure stress, other interventions be explored for reducing stress, and that future researchers explore intervening at the organizational level in addition to the individual level.



Emergency medical technicians--Psychology, Relaxation, Stress (Psychology)--Prevention