The effects of sleep deprivation are akin to alcohol intoxication; build a safe sleep room and a culture of watching over tired medics

Jul 5, 2016

By Ginger Locke

EMS responders are unfit to drive a vehicle at the end of a sleep-deprived 24-hour shift. That’s because long shifts with inadequate sleep makes driving a risk to the responder and others on the road.

Multiple studies demonstrate that prolonged wakefulness is comparable to drunk driving. Twenty-one hours of wakefulness produces impairment of the same magnitude as a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content [1].

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When I read accounts of EMS personnel dying in vehicle collisions on the way home from work, like EMT Susan Elizabeth Kersey, I consider sleep deprivation as the possible culprit. Undeniably, some form of state or federal regulation would improve the current practice of EMS providers logging unsafe numbers of hours worked consecutively.

Until external regulation is forced upon us, we must monitor and care for ourselves by creating safe sleep rooms. Inside a safe sleep room, a tired medic can get some sleep before driving home from their shift. In order for the room to work, we need to first agree that important, potentially lifesaving sleep is happening inside the safe room.

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