From Hero to Zero


  • Stephanie M. Conn University of British Columbia
  • Norman E. Amundson University of British Columbia
  • William A. Borgen University of British Columbia
  • Lee D. Butterfield Simon Fraser University


transition, retirement, service workers, police officers, fire fighter, emergency medical personnel, hinder, identity, roles


This article discusses the identity processes involved in the transition to retirement for emergency service workers, which includes police officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical personnel. The author conducted a study using the Enhanced Critical Incident Technique (ECIT) to determine what helped, hindered and might have helped emergency service workers in making decisions regarding retirement. One of the factors participants identified as hindering their ability to retire was the loss of their professional identity. This loss was discussed and compared to theories that explain the processes of identity role assimilation and identity role salience. Theory and research regarding the accumulation, maintenance and narrowing of the number of identity roles is discussed. The tendency of emergency service workers to narrow their identity role to the singular professional role is examined for its impact on coping and for its subsequent impact on retirement. Future directions in research and practice are suggested.


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How to Cite

Conn, S. M. ., Amundson, N. E., Borgen, W. A. ., & Butterfield, L. D. (2015). From Hero to Zero. Canadian Journal of Career Development, 14(1), 48–57. Retrieved from