Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Original article
Destress 9-1-1—an online mindfulness-based intervention in reducing stress among emergency medical dispatchers: a randomised controlled trial
  1. Michelle Lilly1,
  2. Rebecca Calhoun2,
  3. Ian Painter2,
  4. Randal Beaton2,
  5. Scott Stangenes2,
  6. Debra Revere2,
  7. Janet Baseman2,
  8. Hendrika Meischke2
  1. 1 Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA
  2. 2 Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, University of Washington, DeKalb, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michelle Lilly, Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA; mlilly1{at}


Objectives Emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs) experience significant stress in the workplace. Yet, interventions aimed at reducing work-related stress are difficult to implement due to the logistic challenges associated with the relatively unique EMD work environment. This investigation tested the efficacy of a 7-week online mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) tailored to the EMD workforce.

Methods Active-duty EMDs from the USA and Canada (n=323) were randomly assigned to an intervention or wait list control condition. Participants completed surveys of stress and mindfulness at baseline, post intervention, and 3 months follow-up. Repeated measures mixed effects models were used to assess changes in stress and mindfulness.

Results Differences between the intervention group and control group in pre–post changes in stress using the Calgary Symptoms of Stress Inventory were statistically significant, with a difference of −10.0 (95% CI: −14.9, −5.2, p<0.001) for change from baseline to post intervention, and a difference of −6.5 (95% CI: −11.9, −1.1, p=0.02) for change from baseline to 3 months follow-up. Change in mindfulness scores did not differ between groups. However, increases in mindfulness scores were correlated with greater reductions in stress for all participants, regardless of group (r=−0.53, p<0.001).

Conclusions Development of tailored online MBIs for employees working in challenging work environments offer a promising direction for prevention and intervention. This study found that a short, weekly online MBI for EMDs resulted in reductions in reports of stress. Implications of online MBIs in other emergency responding populations and directions for future research are discussed.

  • health and safety
  • mental health
  • occupational health practice
  • psychology

Statistics from


  • Contributors The research project was originally conceptualised by HM, RC and ML. The intervention was developed by RC and ML. The design of the study was co-developed by all study authors. ML drafted the original manuscript with the exception of the results and tables, which were initially drafted by IP. IP completed all statistical analyses. SS was instrumental in conducting the research and provided feedback on the manuscript draft. RB, DR, JB and HM provided iterative feedback on the manuscript.

  • Funding This project was supported by grant number ROH010536 funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.