Check out my thoughts on the EMS shift length and what I think the perfect length is in this session
How long is your shift?
Mine is usually 24 hours these days and at times have even been 36 hours
if staffing needs dictate it.
I have worked 8, 12, 16 hour shifts as well during my EMS career and I actually
feel the 12 hour shift is the sweet spot.
It allows for a good rest before hand and I think helps avoid shift burn out.
The thing is, I work the 24 hour deal since it helps me avoid two trips back and
forth to work and saves me gas and vehicle wear.
Of course the problem with that is that it’s not about me – but the patients I respond
to and treat. They are certainly getting a more refreshed and alert provider at 2am
when I am on a 12 hour shift vs. a 24 hour 2am call.
There have been a few studies on EMS response and provider awareness when
responding and doing patient care, when a provider is working 8-12 hours vs. when
they are working 24 hours or more in a row.
They show that we are much more alert and can recall things like drug dosages,
protocols and have more success with IVs and other treatments when we work less
hours in a row.
It is also important to point out that driving lights and sirens when you are working
less consecutive hours is safer as well. Actually, these days if you end up in a wreck
with the ambulance lawyers will often focus on how much sleep and how many
hours you where working when the accident occurred more than who had a red or green
I think agencies end up allowing longer hours due to staffing needs and to help accommodate the odd hours many EMS providers work with two or more jobs needed to support the modern family.
To me the answer is to focus more on longevity in EMS and provide better pay, benefits and career paths for EMS professionals. This can help to eliminate this need many of us have to work long hours at varying times and agencies.
Yes, working a 24 hour shift does have its benefits, but I find myself needing about 10 hours after a 24 hour shift to reset myself anyway, as opposed to a 12 hour shift where I can pretty much function just fine after it is over.
So, what is your shift length sweet spot? What do you work now and what would you prefer and why?
Let me know in comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts.