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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 53 (2011) 3, 145 - 151

New research

Personality traits of staff members of the psychiatric emergency services

E.J.M. Penterman, J.M.L. Smeets, C.P.F. van der Staak, H. Özer, H.L.I. Nijman

background In the course of their duties staff members of the psychiatric emergency services may quite often find themselves in unpredictable and, in some cases, threatening situations. For this reason, staff working for the emergency services need to have specific personality traits.
aim To investigate whether staff members of the emergency services differ from well-educated members of the general public as far as personality traits are concerned.
method The staff of the mental health teams of Oost Brabant in the Netherlands (Uden/ Veghel and Helmond regions) were asked to complete an neo-pi-r designed to assess their main personality traits. Of the 59 staff members who were invited to participate, 44 completed and returned the questionnaire (76%). The scores of the 44 staff members were compared to those of a norm group of persons with a similar educational level in the general population.
results The staff of the crisis teams were found to have significantly lower scores on the personality dimension ‘Neurotism’ and particularly on the facets ‘Vulnerability’ and ‘Selfconsciousness’ of this dimension. The psychiatric crisis staff had higher scores on the facets ‘Competence’ and ‘Self-discipline’ and lower scores on the ‘Candour/Frankness/Openness’. Compared to the social workers, the psychiatrists scored higher on the facets ‘Assertiveness’ and ‘Openness to ideas’.
conclusion The lower scores found on the main personality dimension ‘Neuroticism’ and particularly on the facet ‘Vulnerability’ suggest that members of the psychiatric crisis team remain calm in stressful situations and are emotionally rather stable persons. Such personality traits can be important in threatening situations where peace and calm have to be preserved. However, in view of the limited sample size and the relatively large number of statistical tests, the findings of this exploratory study should be interpreted with caution.

keywords NEO-PI-R, personality traits, psychiatric emergency services, staff members