Shiftwork damages paramedics' health

Shiftwork damages paramedics' health

25 Oct 2010

More than 10 per cent of Melbourne paramedics suffer from severe or extremely severe depression, according to new research.

AmbulanceA total of 342 Metropolitan Ambulance service staff on shiftwork rosters completed a survey, which also revealed that:

•    paramedics are at greater risk of chronic fatigue than other shiftworkers;

•    almost 25 per cent of paramedics suffer from an above-normal degree of anxiety; and

•    almost 40 per cent suffer from stress.

Most paramedics in the survey worked at least 48 hours a week: two 10-hour dayshifts and two 14-hour nightshifts. It seems likely that many also worked overtime.

The research was carried out by Associate Professor Andrew Francis from the Division of Psychology within RMIT's School of Health Sciences, with principal researcher James Courtney and colleague Professor Susan Paxton, both from La Trobe University. Mr Courtney began the research while undertaking Honours study at RMIT.

Associate Professor Francis said poor sleep quality was the key factor in explaining why Melbourne paramedics were at increased risk of fatigue, depression, anxiety and stress.

"Paramedics are paying the cost of rotating shiftwork," he said. "Only 30 per cent of paramedics are good sleepers. That's not surprising when they have to start work at 7am on dayshifts, and when long nightshifts require a quick turnaround."

Mr Courtney said: "Ambulance services need to be provided 24 hours a day, but the way those services are staffed needs to be reconsidered.

"Paramedics on 14-hour nightshifts, in particular, are likely to be particularly tired - and that poses a high and potentially unsustainable demand on their ability to think quickly and effectively where lives can be at risk."

For interviews:

Associate Professor Andrew Francis

T (03) 9925 7782  

M 0400 180 262       

James Courtney

M 0488 333 348

For general media enquiries:

David Glanz

RMIT University Communications

(03) 9925 2807 or 0438 547 723

Lisa Prowling

La Trobe University Media and Communications

(03) 9479 5353


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