Finally in the news is an article from EMS1.com that talks about workplace fatigue in EMS and medical and safety errors. It tells the story of a medic, after over 30 hours on duty, who got a needle stick on a call because they were tired and not paying proper attention. I urge you to read the article and think about your workplace situation.
24 Hour Scheduling and EMS Errors
Do you work 24’s that end up being 30’s or 35’s? The continued trend out there to putting fire-based EMS systems on fire system schedules is one that is alarming me. It scares me for just this reason.
Fire departments run much fewer fire calls than an EMS system’s call volume. A 24 hour schedule works for them because in all but the most unusual situations, there is ample opportunity for some sack time when a firefighter gets fatigued.
But with an EMS unit in the same metropolitan system, they are running nearly continuously in that time frame meaning there isn’t time for meals, let alone time to hit the bunk for a nap. When you add in overtime, you get the picture of what can and does happen all too often.
Call for a National EMS Work/Rest Standard
There needs to be a national standard for EMS and other medical professions similar to that used for pilots, truckers and other occupations where public safety is at risk. EMTs and paramedics should be required to get a certain amount of sleep between shifts and the length of those shifts should be no longer than 12 hours.
The argument has always been to exempt emergency services from these types of rules because they respond to emergencies and that makes them, somehow, supermen. REALLY? I know there will be those rare mass casualty situations, natural and man-made disasters that will require those long hours, but the vast majority of what we do can be called routine situations and transports that probably don’t even require an emergency response.
What do you think? How many hours do you work and still feel safe to handle patient care? I want to hear back from you so leave a comment in the link below this article or in the show notes and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!
Follow up on the links to this news item and all the other articles and resources in this week’s episode show notes – Statewide Pit-Crew CPR Standards and Episode 431.