Turnover among 911 dispatchers is notoriously high. And, although there may be a number of reasons for this, one of the most common reasons for leaving a 911 dispatcher job is fatigue; or, perhaps more accurately, burnout.
But if 911 dispatchers are educated to realize the symptoms of 911 dispatcher fatigue and learn how to combat it, working in this industry may change from becoming arduous to highly rewarding.
Most PSAPs provide stress management techniques and classes, but it is ultimately up to the emergency dispatcher to recognize the signs and symptoms of dispatcher fatigue and take the necessary steps to remedy it.
Stress and the 911 Emergency Dispatcher
Stress is the number-one sign of dispatcher fatigue. And, as anyone will agree, you can only go on so long with immense feelings of stress before your body and mind completely shut down.
Although stress may manifest itself physically or mentally differently from one 911 dispatcher to another, most people respond to stress in the following ways:
- An increased heartbeat
- Restricted blood flow
- Increased breathing
- Increased blood pressure
In emergency dispatch situations, your stress levels may reach a peak and stay there for an extended period, due to the high-stress environment. When others experience a stressful situation, their bodies and minds adjust accordingly; but then after the stressful situation has ended, their bodies return to a relaxed state. However, for many 911 dispatchers, they may not be able to reach a relaxed state until well after their shift has ended, thereby putting a strain on both the body and the mind.
What Does 911 Dispatcher Fatigue Feel and Look Like?
To combat dispatcher fatigue, which is a result of enduring long periods of stress, you must be able to recognize what it looks and feels like:
- Feelings of anger and resentment toward co-workers and supervisors
- Bouts of insomnia lasting for more than a week
- Physical problems like stomach aches, headaches, constipation, and neck and chest pain
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Being unable to control your emotions
- Prolonged depression
- Being unable to focus or concentrate
What You Can Do to Help Fight Fatigue
If you are experiencing the mild effects of emergency dispatcher fatigue, there are a number of helpful things you can do:
- Exercise (as little as 20 minutes of brisk walking can help)
- Eat healthy, balanced meals
- Cut back on caffeine
- Take the time to rest
- Learn to breathe deeply
- Get plenty of sleep
- Take advantage of paid time off
If you are experiencing high levels of stress and are having difficulty coping with work, family or life in general, it is important to seek professional help immediately.