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EMS fatigue linked to injuries, errors

EMS fatigue linked to injuries, errors
Lack of sleep and poor sleep in emergency medical services workers are linked to increased injuries, medical errors and riskier behaviors, U.S. researchers say. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Lack of sleep and poor sleep in emergency medical services workers are linked to increased injuries, medical errors and riskier behaviors, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author P. Daniel Patterson of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and colleagues surveyed EMS workers from across the country, receiving complete data from 511 respondents.

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The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was used to evaluate sleep quality, including such factors as sleep duration and use of sleeping medication.

A questionnaire measuring fatigue and adapted for the EMS environment was used to assess physical and mental fatigue. The researchers also developed a new 44-item survey tool to elicit self-reported safety outcomes data, including provider injury, medical errors or adverse events and safety-compromising behaviors, such as excessive speeding.

The study, published online ahead of the print issue of the January-March Prehospital Emergency Care, found more than half of the respondents were classified as fatigued; 18 percent reported an injury; 41 percent reported a medical error or adverse event; and 90 percent reported a safety-compromising behavior.

The researchers found the odds of injury were 1.9 times greater for fatigued respondents versus their non-fatigued peers; the odds of medical errors or adverse events were 2.2 times greater; and the odds of safety-compromising behavior were 3.6 times greater.

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Most respondents reported working between six and 15 shifts per month, and half reported regular shift lengths of 24 hours, while one-third regularly working at more than one EMS agency.

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