Physical and psychological challenges faced by military, medical and public safety personnel relief workers supporting natural disaster operations: a systematic review
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Natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes, result in devastating consequences at the individual and community levels. To date, much of the research reflecting the consequences of natural disasters focuses heavily on victims, with little attention paid to the personnel responding to such disasters. We conducted a systematic review of the challenges faced by military, medical and public safety personnel supporting natural disaster relief operations. Specifically, we report on the current evidence reflecting challenges faced, as well as positive outcomes experienced by military, medical and public safety personnel following deployment to natural disasters. The review included 382 studies. A large proportion of the studies documented experiences of medical workers, followed by volunteers from humanitarian organizations and military personnel. The most frequently reported challenges across the studies were structural (i.e., interactions with the infrastructure or structural institutions), followed by resource limitations, psychological, physical, and social challenges. Over 60% of the articles reviewed documented positive or transformative outcomes following engagement in relief work (e.g., the provision of additional resources, support, and training), as well as self-growth and fulfillment. The current results emphasize the importance of pre-deployment training to better prepare relief workers to manage expected challenges, as well as post-deployment supportive services to mitigate adverse outcomes and support relief workers’ well-being.
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