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Fatigue reporting processes reduce ambulance crash risk

Great strides have been made in ambulance safety, design and operation, but significant risk still exists


This is the ninth of 10 articles in the 2017 EMSFORWARD campaign. Read the article announcing the series or visit EMSFORWARD.org to access the full report and additional patient safety resources.

"Ambulance crashes are a significant risk to prehospital care providers, the patients they are carrying, persons in other vehicles and pedestrians."

— Ambulance Crash Characteristics in the US Defined by the Popular Press: A Retrospective Analysis Teri L. Sanddal, 1 Nels D. Sanddal,1 Nicolas Ward, 2 and Laura Stanley 2 Emergency Medicine International Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 525979

Scenario: It’s been a busy shift for an EMS crew with a steady stream of calls and little to no down time. It is nearing shift change when the crew is dispatched to a non-emergent transfer of a patient from the local hospital to a long-term care facility. While transporting the patient to the long-term care facility, the ambulance is involved in a crash. 

While transporting the patient to the long-term care facility, the ambulance is involved in a crash. (Courtesy photo)
While transporting the patient to the long-term care facility, the ambulance is involved in a crash. (Courtesy photo)

During the investigation, the driver said he was tired and thought maybe he "dozed off" while driving. He said he should have "known better" and should have told someone that he was too tired to be operating the ambulance but he didn’t want to get in trouble.  

Ask yourself: Does your organization encourage crew members to openly report when fatigue may make them unsafe to operate a vehicle or provide patient care?

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