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Caring for the Country: Fatigue, Sleep and Mental Health in Australian Rural Paramedic Shiftworkers

Abstract

This study investigated sleep quality, fatigue, mental health and physical activity in rural paramedic shiftworkers. Although limited, previous studies have associated high fatigue levels and poorer health in this sector with shiftwork rostering and occupational demands. A modified version of the Standard Shiftwork Index was completed by 150 paramedics (117 male and 31 females) from rural Victoria. Single sample t tests found significantly higher levels of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and stress, and significantly poorer sleep quality than reference samples. Paramedics also reported less physical activity than community samples. By regression analysis, sleep quality explained the greatest amount of variance in fatigue scores, followed by depression and age. No gender differences in levels of depression or fatigue were found. Consistent with an earlier study of metropolitan paramedics based on the same methodology, findings suggest rural ambulance paramedic shiftworkers are at particular risk for increased levels of fatigue and depression (regardless of age or gender) and poor quality sleep. Organisational intervention was suggested.

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Correspondence to Andrew J. P. Francis.

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Courtney, J.A., Francis, A.J.P. & Paxton, S.J. Caring for the Country: Fatigue, Sleep and Mental Health in Australian Rural Paramedic Shiftworkers. J Community Health 38, 178–186 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-012-9599-z

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Keywords

  • Shiftwork
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep quality
  • Ambulance
  • Paramedic
  • Depression