Exploring paramedic health status and simulated occupational performance

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University of New Brunswick


Paramedics face difficult working conditions such as long hours of inactivity followed by high physical efforts in hazardous environments plus high levels of emotional stress. It is known that paramedicine has an influence on the general health status of paramedics. However, there is a lack of information in the literature focusing on the impact of health status on job performance. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the influence of paramedic health status on occupational performance. Challenges encountered during participant recruitment, resulted in a cohort of twenty-five experienced New Brunswick (NB) paramedics from Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB). Thus, a descriptive and explanatory approach was adopted in order to provide an important foundation for future research. The dissertation was divided into three studies that characterized the health status of paramedics and its influence on job performance. The first study focused on methods of screening for health conditions in order to quantify the prevalence of health conditions and described the health status of the group. Approximately 60 % of the sample had elevated risk of health conditions. Also, the difference among the methods highlighted that a third of the cohort seemed unaware of their health condition. The second and third studies used ambulance and patient simulators, with simulated scenarios created to challenge experienced paramedics. The second study took a work physiology approach and investigated the influence of paramedics' health status on their physiological responses during simulated emergency driving tasks. Paramedics with health conditions were more physiologically aroused during the urgent driving scenarios. Paramedics with health conditions also had higher physiological responses during the post-intervention assessment. The third study explored the relationship between patient-care performance and paramedics' health status. Paramedics with self-reported elevated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were less likely to complete a simulated patient-care scenario successfully. The results from these studies indicate a link between health status and occupational performance among experienced New Brunswick paramedics. This dissertation highlights the need for additional research to explore these relationships further and for professional paramedic associations and paramedicine programs to focus on worker health as it pertains to occupational performance.