Calls for more sleep support for new paramedics
New paramedics should be given more support and better sleep strategies to protect them from poor mental health, researchers say.
Insomnia and depression increase within six months of recruits starting work, according to new research published in the journal Sleep.
A total of 101 paramedics were involved in the study between August 2018 and December 2020, which was run by scientists from Monash University and Ambulance Victoria.
It found recruits who already have insomnia before starting work were more likely to experience worse depression during those crucial first months.
Senior author Dr Alexander Wolkow hopes the findings may be used to develop early intervention strategies and greater support when students transition into full-time shift work.
"The demanding nature of emergency work routinely exposes personnel to potentially traumatic events, placing these workers at high risk of mental health issues," he explained.
"Early interventions that target poor sleep in paramedic students and new recruits may potentially offer some protection against them developing mental health problems, particularly in those first few months at work, but further research is urgently needed in this area."
Previous research has shown paramedics have higher rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder than other emergency workers such as police and firefighters.
Ambulance Victoria is aware it can be challenging to adjust to shift work and several programs are already in place, according to paramedic and study co-author Dr Ben Meadley.
"This research helps us better understand the challenges paramedics face and what we can do to further enhance the support services we provide to ensure our staff are healthy and have a long and fulfilling career serving our communities," he said.