Role Identity, Dissonance, and Distress among Paramedics Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Role identity theory describes the purpose and meaning in life that comes, in part, from occupying social roles. While robustly linked to health and wellbeing, this may become unideal when an individual is unable to fulfill the perceived requirements of an especially salient role in the manner that they believe they should. Amid high rates of mental illness among public safety personnel, we interviewed a purposely selected sample of 21 paramedics from a single service in Ontario, Canada, to explore incongruence between an espoused and able-to-enact paramedic role identity. Situated in an interpretivist epistemology and using successive rounds of thematic analysis, we developed a framework for role identity dissonance wherein chronic, identity-relevant disruptive events cause emotional and psychological distress. While some participants were able to recalibrate their sense of self and understanding of the role, for others, this dissonance was irreconcilable, contributing to disability and lost time from work. In addition to contributing a novel perspective on paramedic mental health and wellbeing, our work also offers a modest contribution to the theory in using the paramedic context as an example to consider identity disruption through chronic workplace stress.

publication date

  • February 13, 2022