A qualitative study on the experiences of female firefighters
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PURPOSE: Firefighters are exposed to high physical and psychological occupational factors while providing an essential service to our communities. Female firefighters represent a minority group in this male dominated occupation. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively determine the impact of a male dominated, physically demanding occupation on women's work health and job satisfaction through the experiences of female firefighters. METHODS: A phenomenological approach was used to collect data through semi-structured, recorded interviews with female firefighters. The recorded interviews were transcribed into text and inductive thematic analysis was used to qualitatively analyze the transcripts. RESULTS: Review and analysis of the participant responses identified seven themes: physical demands/difficulties, gender related physiological differences, compensatory strategies, equipment mal-adaptation, earning respect, negative attitudes of male counterparts: impact on social inclusion and health behaviors, recognition of injury risk. CONCLUSION: Female firefighters are exposed to increased risk of injury due to the psychological and physical occupational stressors in firefighting. Implications of this research are provided and include recommendations for future research to target the physical and psychosocial aspects of firefighting.
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