Date of Award

Summer 8-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services



Committee Director

Kristy Carlisle

Committee Member

Jason Sawyer

Committee Member

Eric Brown


911 dispatchers are the “first” first responders in an emergency and play an intrinsic role in the public safety continuum. 911 dispatchers are exposed to daily and cumulative stress from the repeated empathic engagement of those they serve, and from shift work, staffing shortages, and inability to make mistakes. However, there is a dearth of peer reviewed literature on 911 dispatchers and compassion fatigue (CF). CF is described as the emotional and physical exhaustion experienced due to the constant exposure to the trauma of others. CF symptomology in 911 dispatchers has far reaching implications for not only the citizens who need critical lifesaving support but also the first responders who rely on the 911 dispatchers for detailed information relating to officer safety. In this study, I examined the lived experiences of 911 dispatchers with CF through an interpretive phenomenology lens. The data was gathered from one-on-one interviews and was analyzed on the individual level and from across participant themes while maintaining the integrity of the individual participant responses. Six superordinate themes emerged: 911 Dispatcher Challenges, Management/Agency, Physical Impact, Traumatic Calls, Clinical Symptoms, and When the Helpers Need Help. The results of this study highlighted the dire need for increased awareness of the challenges dispatchers experience, management support, mental health outreach, and research involving this essential population.


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