EMS Crew Fatigue in New South Wales

I find it fascinating to chat with EMS colleagues around the globe. It’s an eye-opening experience, seeing how other countries approach the provision of Emergency Medical Services; who does it better, who does it worse, who has practices we’d do well to emulate, who could learn a few lessons from the American model.

One of the neatest things is discovering that, despite the significant differences between systems, patients are the same wherever you go. We’ve all dealt with the same kind of fear and folly, hilarity and heartbreak, exhilaration and exhaustion, whether the call goes down in London or West Bugscuffle, TX.

Indeed, the only difference between EMS war stories around the world is the accent of the storyteller.

From reading blogs like Flobach Republic, and talking with Bryan Bledsoe, who has observed the Australian EMS system on numerous trips there, it is obvious that our colleagues Down Under operate a sophisticated and professional EMS system. Paramedic is one of the most respected professions in Australia, and their professional education and entry requirements are generally higher than our own in the United States – in some cases, significantly so.

That said, it is strangely satisfying (and distressing) to learn that, as good as they are, they still sometimes do stupid shit like work their paramedics into the ground.

I don’t care where you are, what kind of system flaws you have, how many hours the overtaxed ED holds up your crews waiting on an open bed, or how understaffed you are, requiring paramedics to work seven 24 hour shifts in a row is lunacy, and doubly so when your medics are on the roads upwards of 19 hours in 24, as New South Wales paramedics often are.

The only time that sort of thing might be acceptable is when run volume is so low that bedsores for the crew become a real concern, and you have to go start your rig every few days just to make sure it will run if you need it.