Drowsy and Dangerous? Fatigue in Paramedics: An Overview

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Fatigue is a complex phenomenon that has effects on physical characteristics, cognition, behaviours, and physical and mental health. Paramedicine crosses the boundaries of many high-risk industries, namely medicine, transport and aviation. The effects of fatigue on paramedics thus need to be explored and considered in order to begin to identify appropriate interventions and management strategies.

Ergonomic design of new paramedic response bags

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Studies have shown that adverse events in paramedic services occur at a rate that is similar to that of other patient care areas. For example, Vilke et al. (2007) found that 9.1% of pre-hospital treatments by paramedics involved medication errors that had the potential to be harmful. Yet another often overlooked safety concern is that the paramedics themselves are at high risk for both acute and chronic injuries, to the back, neck, arm and wrist (Maguire et al., 2005; Maguire and Smith, 2013).

An Introduction to Human Factors & Ergonomics in Paramedicine

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Our service underwent what we called a cultural transformation through collaboration. We developed our mission, vision and values as well as a set of guiding principles in collaboration with our front-line staff. We all promised to live by and make decisions based on these values and guiding principles which included caring for the health and safety of our staff, ensuring patient safety, having an inclusive and empowering leadership style, and being innovative in how we implement change.