Fatigue risk assessment of a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service crew working a 24/7 shift pattern: results of a prospective service evaluation

C. Rose, E. ter Avest*, R. M. Lyon

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

    OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

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    Background: The work of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) teams crosses the boundaries of several high-risk occupations including medicine, aviation, and transport. Working conditions can be challenging and operational demands requires a 24-h rota, resulting in disruption of the normal circadian rhythm. HEMS crews are therefore prone to both mental and physical fatigue. As fatigue in medical providers is linked to poor cognitive performance, degradation of psychomotor skills and error, this study aimed to explore the existence of predictable patterns of crew-fatigue in a HEMS service.

    Methods: HEMS medical crew members working a 3-on 3-off forward rotating rota with a 5-week shift cycle were asked to do psychomotor vigilance tests (PVT) as an objective measure of fatigue. PVT testing was undertaken at the start, mid- and at the end of every shift during a full 5-week shift cycle. In addition, they were asked to score subjective tiredness with the Samn-Perelli Fatigue Scale (SPFS), and to keep a Transport Fatigue Assessment shift log, wherein they noted shift characteristics potentially related to fatigue. Primary outcome of interest was defined as the change in PVT and SPFS scores over time.

    Results: Mean baseline resting PVT in milliseconds at the start of the study period was 427 [390–464]. There was an overall trend towards higher PVT-scores with shift progression mean [95% CI] PVT at the start of shifts 447 [433–460]; halfway through the shift 452 [440–463]; end of the shift 459 [444–475], p = 0.10), whereas SPFS scores remained constant. Within a 5 week forward-rotating cycle, an overall trend towards a gradual increase in both average PVT (from 436 [238–454] to 460 [371–527, p = 0.68] ms;) and SPFS (from 2.9 [2.6–3.2] to 3.6 [3.1–4.0], p = 0.38) was observed, although significant interindividual variation was present. Reported SPFS scores ≥ 4 (moderate fatigue) were mainly related to workload (number of jobs) and transport mode (car-based shifts).

    Conclusion: An overall trend towards a decline in psychomotor vigilance and an increase in self-reported tiredness was found for HEMS crew over a 5-week shift cycle. Using a bespoke predictive fatigue tool on a day-to-day basis could increase fatigue awareness and provide a framework to which relevant mitigating options can be applied.

    Originele taal-2English
    Aantal pagina's7
    TijdschriftScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
    StatusPublished - dec.-2023


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