Popular culture often depicts Public Safety Personnel such as firefighters, paramedics and military personnel as hero-like figures whose job is to keep others safe. And yet behind the uniform and protective equipment are regular people, who have challenging professions with many risks that largely go unnoticed.

Dr. Cramm, an Associate Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and lead for military and Veterans family research at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR), has spent her career working to better understand the experiences and needs of the families of military personnel and Veterans. Her interest was sparked through her clinical work in child psychiatry, where she would see families coming from the military but couldn’t find any research or guidance on how to best understand the impacts of the military family lifestyle on health and health service access. “What I realized when I was working was, like most people in Canada, I had so little awareness of what military families are experiencing and how they access healthcare.”

Military families move 2 to 3 times more often than other Canadian families, disrupting their access to provincial healthcare services. These families are faced with the realities of extended periods of parental absence due to training and deployment while living with the added stress of heightened risk of injury, illness, and death for their loved ones. As a case in point, during the recent COVID-19 state of emergency, military personnel were deployed to long-term care homes, where they provided frontline support under volatile conditions. The emergence of the COVID-19 virus has altered the lives of military and public safety personnel in ways that further exacerbate the challenges that they, and their families, face. Due to their increased risk of exposure to the virus and the highly ambiguous nature of transmission, some were forced to isolate from their families, sleeping in their garages and basements for fear of passing on the virus to their loved ones. Dr. Cramm received funding from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to collect, synthesize, and circulate emerging practices that respond to COVID-related stressors impacting the families of military personnel, as well as the families of public safety personnel such as paramedics and firefighters.

Click here to read more on this Feature Story from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University in Canada.