April 26, 2022 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

As King’s demonstrates its strong commitment to research, Dr. David Malloy, King’s President, is doing his part, serving as principal investigator on two Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders (SPHIFR) grants. The funding totals is $247,000 from the Government of Alberta. Both grants support Dr. Malloy’s main area of research: moral injuries (MI) among first responders. In addition to being a leader on King’s campus, Dr. Malloy also uses his leadership skills to head a team of research experts.

As Dr. Malloy has stated in the past, he feels blessed to be able to continue to lead research projects, even though it is now at a lesser pace than earlier in his career given his role as King’s President.

“I am so fortunate to be able to continue my career at this great university, pursuing meaningful work as an academic and administrator and hopefully being a role model for other aspiring scholars. My work in applied philosophy really is a calling that allows me to be and to become a better scholar,” says Dr. Malloy.

In the context of first responders, such as police officers, MI is described as the psychological distress resulting when one witnesses or is required to make decisions or take actions in the line of duty that conflict with their internalized morals, ethics, or values.

Dr. Malloy believes that research in MI helps first responders come to terms with the tragedies they experience during their service. He wants to continue the development of preventative training in terms of hardiness, resilience, and moral awareness of decision-making. As a philosopher, Dr. Malloy has spent his academic life being curious about how practical philosophy can be applied in helping people make sound decisions and therefore foster positive mental health.

The first grant entitled, “Compromised Conscience: An exploration of moral injury in police officers and dispatchers in Alberta,” is a cooperative project involving King's University College, Thompson Rivers University, the University of Alberta, Sir Wilfred Laurier University, and the University of Regina.

The main objective of the research is to identify if Alberta police officers and dispatchers feel that MI is relevant to them and to identify factors related to MI in this group. The information from the study will offer police and dispatchers the tools necessary to identify MI. As well the research will discuss how to deal with the diverse, sometimes morally challenging, scenarios that first responders may face in their professional practice, using psychoeducation to promote resilience.

This research group has conducted a similar study, funded by CIHR, with firefighters and paramedics in Alberta and Saskatchewan, resulting in two articles, "Meat in a Seat: A Grounded Theory Study Exploring Moral Injury in Canadian Public Safety Communicators, Firefighters, and Paramedics" and "Compromised Conscience: A Scoping Review of Moral Injury Among Firefighters, Paramedics, and Police Officers"  in high-impact open access journals.

The second grant was “A view of moral injury: Examining the effect of moral complexities on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) and occupational impairment.”

Dr. Malloy, as principal investigator, is working with Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton (URegina), who is a co-investigator, as is Dr. Gregory Anderson of Thompson Rivers University, Dr. Renée S. MacPhee of Wilfrid Laurier University and Dr. Suzette Brémault-Phillips from the University of Alberta. The study collaborators include postdocs Dr. Liana Lentz and Dr. Lorraine Smith-MacDonald.

The project examines how first responders (i.e., emergency call-takers and dispatchers, correctional officers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, sheriffs) are exposed daily to complex moral and ethical dilemmas often rooted in profound human suffering. The COVID-19 pandemic increased and heightened these exposures. This project aims to survey Alberta’s first responders to determine: (1) what events are seen as morally injurious within and between first responders’ groups; (2) the prevalence of MI; and (3) associated psychological and occupational impairment. Knowledge gained from this study will inform the development of a moral resilience preparedness program for first responders.

Dr. Malloy states that “’moral Injury can have a significant impact on us all. Our first line of defense is the time we spend being introspective and considering what values lie behind our behaviours. Further, we need to understand what core values make up our ontological essence so that when these values are challenged - and they will be challenged – we can make decisions that are consistent with who we are and who we wish to be.”