The EMS Spouse’s Perspective On Post-Traumatic Stress

It’s almost Halloween, and I think my husband is haunted.

He’s worked in the EMS system in four states over fifteen years.  When we visit his hometown where he started, and when we drive around where we live now, I wonder how much he is haunted by calls he’s responded to.  He has a memory like a steel trap, and I know he remembers whether he wants to or not.  Whether it’s a call he’s proud of or not.  Maybe where something went wrong, or a mistake was made, or circumstances failed to work in his patients’ favor.

In my world of mental health, we talk much about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and secondary victims (See this month’s issue of EMS World.)  We talk about healthy sleep cycles, and things that keep us balanced.  We discuss with colleagues what haunts us, and we talk with our clients about what haunts them.  We talk about it so much that it’s annoying, but that’s what we know how to do.  We can talk and listen our way through anything.

I wonder if others are haunted, too, throughout EMS and in many other professions.  Things we wish were different and things we’d like to take back.  I’ll even go as far to say (in very non-therapist fashion) that we don’t always have to talk about it.  Some people aren’t talkers, and some people say talking actually makes them feel worse.  I think the key is to find what positive coping mechanisms do work for us, and do them.

But there are those of us who will still be haunted by the past.  I hope that we can all learn from our mistakes, let go of what wasn’t our fault, and forgive others where they acted in error.  And maybe, over time, those street names will slowly lose their significance from the horror that was witnessed.


  1. K. Merritz says:

    Thank you for posting this beautifully put, well written, and down-to earth-article. I could not agree more.

  2. I completely agree. I’m a new paramedic wife and learning to be supportive. I know my beloved husband is haunted my memories. Is there any good books or articles you could recommend? Thank you for your time.

    • emspatientperspective says:

      Hello Tara, I apologize for the delay in responding. The Code Green Campaign is a good place to start, and is an outlet if you would like to anonymously share his or your stories. There was an article about this in October’s JEMS as well. Thank you for writing, and I wish the best for both of you.

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