Fatigue Risk Management in EMS
Fatigue continues to be a widespread problem for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel. Both mental and physical fatigue can affect EMS personnel, due to the intensity of the job and working shifts, which we know disrupts normal patterns of sleep and circadian rhythms. Studies have found significantly higher levels of fatigue and mental health issues amongst paramedics, as well as significantly poorer sleep quality compared to other industries.
Near misses and accidents involving EMS personnel, where fatigue was a contributing factor, continue to occur. Earlier this year, an Emergency Medical Technician in the USA was killed when the technician driving the ambulance fell asleep at the wheel, colliding into another vehicle.
Evidence-based Guidelines for Fatigue Risk Management in EMS were recently published in the Prehospital Emergency Care journal recommend:
- The use of fatigue surveys to measure and monitor fatigue in EMS personnel
- Shifts to be shorter than 24 hours in duration
- Access to caffeine as a fatigue countermeasure
- The opportunity to nap while on duty in order to mitigate fatigue
- Education and training on fatigue-related risks
The guidelines also remind us that fatigue management is a shared responsibility between EMS personnel and employers.