New evidence-based guidelines in the journal Prehospital Emergency Care provide guidance to administrators of emergency medical services (EMS) on how to mitigate workplace fatigue.

“Fatigue is widespread in EMS and is not isolated to one type of EMS operation or category of EMS clinician,” lead author Daniel Patterson, PhD, said in a press release. “The outcomes of fatigue can be devastating for EMS personnel and their patients.”

Based on a review of the evidence, an expert panel developed a guideline with 5 recommendations for fatigue risk management in EMS operations. The five recommendations are:

  1. Recommend using fatigue/sleepiness survey instruments to measure and monitor fatigue in EMS personnel.
  2. Recommend that EMS personnel work shifts shorter than 24 hours in duration.
  3. Recommend that EMS personnel have access to caffeine as a fatigue countermeasure.
  4. Recommend that EMS personnel have the opportunity to nap while on duty to mitigate fatigue.
  5. Recommend that EMS personnel receive education and training to mitigate fatigue and fatigue-related risks.

Also published online in the journal are all companion materials, including background information, systematic reviews, evidence tables, and expert commentaries.

The guidelines were developed as part of the Fatigue in EMS Project, which involves a partnership between the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and a research team led by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists. Work performed on this project was supported with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).