A study prepared by internationally recognized sleep expert Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D., supports the long-standing position of the National EMS Pilots Association (NEMSPA) that emergency medical service pilots should be allowed to sleep on duty. Rosekind, the president and chief scientist of Alertness Solutions, a California-based company that provides consulting services in the area of fatigue management, conducted the study at the request of NEMSPA.
In his eight-page white paper entitled "Managing Fatigue in EMS Operations: Challenges and Opportunities," Rosekind wrote that 100% of humans are susceptible to the negative effects of sleep loss. He pointed to issues such as circadian disruption, cumulative sleep debt and shift schedules as some of the root causes of fatigue. Rosekind concluded that they are best mitigated by allowing EMS pilots to sleep on duty as needed, especially on those occasions when daytime sleep is insufficient to rejuvenate a pilot for night work.
Forcing pilots to perform without adequate sleep, Rosekind wrote, "… puts 100% of personnel (and subsequently their colleagues and patients) at risk, and contradicts the extensive physiological, scientific and operational findings that demonstrate sleep is the most important factor required for optimal performance, alertness and safety."
NEMSPA still encourages pilots to report to work well rested, but it remains a vocal advocate for dedicated crew sleep quarters; an issue that continues to be the source of occasional debate in the EMS industry.