Study links fatigue to poor safety among EMS workers

November 30, 2011

Pittsburgh – Fatigued emergency medical service workers may have greater odds of injury and safety-compromising behavior, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers surveyed more than 500 EMS workers and classified 55 percent as fatigued, according to the study abstract. Most survey respondents worked between six and 15 shifts per month, with half of the respondents regularly working 24-hour shifts. About 90 percent of all respondents reported a safety-compromising behavior, 41 percent reported a medical error or adverse event, and 18 percent reported an injury, the study found. For fatigued respondents, the odds of injury and safety-compromising behavior were 1.9 and 3.6 times greater, respectively.

“While further research is needed to examine the association between self-reported and actual safety outcomes, our findings provide preliminary evidence that sleep quality and fatigue are important indicators of EMS safety,” lead author P. Daniel Patterson said in a press release. “Our data also suggest that number of shifts and total fatigue, instead of shift length, may be important targets for intervention in this workforce.”

The study was published online Oct. 24 in Prehospital Emergency Care.