Understanding the impact of shift work and sleep disorders in student paramedics

Posted 8 Feb 2022

Shift work is a routine part of the job for the paramedic workforce who provide healthcare 24/7.

Shift work, typically referred to as work outside of traditional (9am – 6pm) hours, is associated with increased errors, workplace accidents, absenteeism, and poorer health. This is particularly the case in Australian shift workers early in their careers, where rates of workplace injuries are double those of non-shift workers.

Sleep complaints are also common in young adults, with six in 10 Australians aged 18 – 24 reporting at least one sleep complaint, and eight in 10 reporting at least one daytime symptom of sleep problems at least three times a week.

Like shift work, sleep complaints are also linked with workplace errors, increased road accident risk, absenteeism and reduced mental and physical health.

Led by Dr Amy Reynolds, new research at Flinders will explore the benefit of identifying and managing sleep problems before our new paramedics hit the road.

“Shift work and sleep disorders are both associated with adverse safety, productivity and health outcomes. The combination of the two is poorly understood but is highly prevalent. Early intervention may mean we can reduce the risks to safety and health, and reduce productivity losses in vulnerable shift workers,” Dr Reynolds said.

“Identifying and managing sleep disorders before our graduates are exposed to shift work is a novel, accessible and prevention-focussed strategy to optimise health and safety from the beginning of their career.

“Importantly, this also gives an opportunity to support and educate paramedics about sleep health in early adulthood.”

This research is one of more than 30 new projects funded through the 2021 Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant Round. 

Research category: Public Health

Project title: The Paramedic Sleep Health Intervention for Transition to Work (Paramedics SHIFT2Work) Study: A protocol feasibility and acceptability study in student paramedics

Lead researcher: Dr Amy Reynolds


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