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Public Policy and Administration


David Milen


Fatigue negatively affects numerous people throughout the world and has a number of origins, including shift work. Fatigue experienced by people who work shifts may have a negative impact on carrying out job functions and can pose safety risks. Firefighter paramedics who work 24-hour shifts are expected to respond to calls for service throughout their shifts, even during hours of nighttime sleep. Firefighter paramedics perform medical procedures to save lives, requiring time, attention, and alertness, all of which become reduced with fatigue. Although literature exists on the physical and psychological effects of fatigue for those who work shifts and for firefighter paramedics, there is a gap regarding specific effects experienced by firefighter paramedics working 24-hour shifts and whether call volume influences fatigue experienced and fatigue-related issues. Therefore, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore whether more fatigue was experienced by firefighter paramedics working 24-hour shifts in high call volume fire stations versus low call volume fire stations, and if this lead to a greater potential for negative cognitive effects that impacted their health and safety and the level of patient care provided. Twelve active career firefighter paramedics were interviewed; 6 worked at high call volume stations and 6 worked at low call volume stations. Guided by the repair and restoration theory of sleep as the theoretical foundation and using NVivo 12 software, data were analyzed for common themes. Thirteen themes emerged related to fatigue, sleep, service calls, cognitive functioning, health issues, personal methods for dealing with fatigue, and departmental awareness and accommodations. Findings of this study could create positive social change by assisting fire rescue organizations in identifying possible risks to the safety of their personnel and the communities they serve.

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