Fit for duty: The health status of New South Wales Paramedics

Alexander James MacQuarrie, Caroline Robertson, Peter Micalos, James Crane, Richard High, Eric Drinkwater, James Wickham

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Introduction: Paramedics are health care workers who respond to medical emergencies. Paramedics exhibit high rates of injury and illness with markers of poor health. The aims of this study were to explore the self-reported health status of paramedics in New South Wales, Australia, and to compare it with that of the Australian general population and to examine paramedics’ attitudes towards exercise.Methods: In 2015, paramedics employed by NSW Ambulance were invited to complete a web-based survey composed of the Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form 36 (SF-36), measures of attitudes towards exercise and demographic information. Normative comparator data for the Australian general population (BMI and SF-36 scores) were sourced from the Household Income Labour Dynamics in Australia 2015 survey. Results: Of the approximately 3,300 paramedics invited to participate, 747 completed the survey (507 male, 240 female). Mean age and mean years of service were 41.5 ± 9.5 (SD) and 13.6 ± 9.0 respectively. Male paramedics scored higher than females (p<0.001) in the Vitality domain of the SF-36, and regional paramedics had a higher General Health domain score than metropolitan paramedics (p<0.05). Regional male paramedics had higher BMIs than their metropolitan counterparts (28.04 kg/m2 ± 3.99 vs. 26.81 kg/m2 ± 4.67, p = 0.001). Compared to the Australian population, paramedics scored higher in the Physical Function domain (p<0.001) but lower in summary scores for mental and physical health (p<0.001). Paramedics’ BMIs were slightly higher than the general population (27.10 ± 4.30 kg/m2 vs. 26.47 ±5.42, p<0.001). Paramedics reported lack of time, family commitments, and lack of motivation and in regional postings: distance to fitness facilities and shift patterns as barriers to exercise. Conclusions: Paramedics scored lower on the SF-36 than the general population, which can indicate a lower health-related quality of life. High BMI and low SF-36 scores may be related to a perceived inability to engage in regular exercise. Increasing BMI can be associated with the development of markers of poor health. Attention is needed to ensure that paramedics are “fit for duty”. Ambulance management should foster innovative health promotion programs and paramedics need to recognise and value good health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalIrish Journal of Paramedicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2018


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