Drowsy and dangerous? Fatigue in paramedics: an overview

Scott Ramey, Alexander MacQuarrie, Alyson Cochrane, Ivan McCann, C. William Johnston, Alan M Batt

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.32378/ijp.v4i1.175



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.


The aim of this article was to provide an overview of fatigue in paramedics and its potential effects on various areas of paramedic practice and paramedic health, and to outline potential solutions to assess and manage the risk of fatigue in paramedics as suggested by the literature.


We conducted unstructured, non-systematic searches of the literature in order to inform an overview of the literature. An overview is a summary of the literature that attempts to survey the literature and describe its characteristics. We thematically structured the review under the following headings: defining occupational activity and health status; clinical performance and patient safety; shift length and time at work; effects on paramedic health; effects on driving abilities; fatigue risk management; and, fatigue proofing.


Fatigue should be considered in the context of overall paramedic health status and paramedic occupational activity. The nature of paramedic shift work, and the associated occupational activity place paramedics at increased risk from fatigue. Shift work may also contribute to sleep disorders among paramedics. Fatigue is associated with increased errors and adverse events, increased chronic disease and injury rates, depression and anxiety, and impaired driving ability.


The issue of fatigue in paramedicine is complex and has serious consequences for patients and paramedics. Paramedic services and paramedics need to work collaboratively to identify and action appropriate measures to reduce the effects of fatigue on the wellbeing of the workforce and mitigate its effects on clinical performance and safety.


fatigue; paramedic; EMS; mental health; physical health; sleep

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.32378/ijp.v4i1.175


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