In EMS, being overworked is a two-way street

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: We posted a video Tuesday that describes how medics in Kentucky say that they can't effectively do their job because of having to work long hours. As Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh notes, this is not always a simple issue.

There are some dangerous warning signs in this news story, on both sides of the management/employee fence regarding forced overtime and work exhaustion.

Mandatory OT is not new. Many of us have been "held over" at the end of our shifts for a variety of reasons. While we might grumble about it, it's usually not an issue unless it becomes chronic. I'd imagine that management tracks these trends through payroll and other means; it would behoove the organization to increase staffing or change staffing configuration if the trend continues upwards. There have been several studies that show the rate of injuries, health problems, and crashes have been correlated with being tired at work.

On the other hand, many EMS providers willingly work long hours to create greater income for themselves. No doubt there are lots of reasons for this as well, but the result is the same — regardless of the situation, working much more than your regular shifts will create situations where judgment and decision making may become impaired. In another words — it's a two way street when it comes to working overtime.

I'm wondering what else is happening in the back story that's not being reported. It's an important issue in our industry, but in the absence of information, it's hard to understand exactly what's happening. What goes on in your shop? How often do you work overtime? Are there policies in place in regards to working extra hours? Please share your thoughts.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at

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