Intubation success rates by air ambulance personnel during 12-versus 24-hour shifts: does fatigue make a difference?

Prehosp Emerg Care. Oct-Dec 2001;5(4):340-3. doi: 10.1080/10903120190939481.


Objectives: To determine whether the skill performance and psychomotor agility, as measured by the endotracheal intubation success rate, of air ambulance medical personnel would be affected by the potential fatigue incurred when increasing the length of their shifts from 12 to 24 hours.

Methods: This was a retrospective review of all flight and intubation records from a large air medical transport system from 1997, when 24-hour shifts were in place, and six months (March-August) of 1996, during which 12-hour shifts were scheduled. Records of all intubation efforts during both periods, including multiple attempts per patient, and outcomes of all attempts, were recorded. Results of successes and failures were tabulated for both ultimate intubation outcome per patient and all attempts per patient for each calendar day and for the 12 hours between 19:00 and 07:00 when fatigue might play a role. Results from the two study periods were compared using Fisher's exact test.

Results: During the six months of 1996, 190 of 199 (95.5%) patients were ultimately successfully intubated. These patients required 237 attempts (80.1% successful). During 1997, 362 of 376 (96.3%) patients were successfully intubated, and required 438 attempts (82.6% successful). There was no statistically significant difference in the number of ultimately successful intubations (p = 0.66) or total intubation attempts (p = 0.37) between 1996 and 1997. Analysis of intubations between 19:00 and 07:00 revealed 81 of 84 (96.4%) patients successfully intubated in 1996, with 81 of 103 (78.6%) attempts successful. During 1997, 173 of 180 (96.1%) patients were ultimately successfully intubated, with 173 of 212 (81.6%) attempts successful. Again, there was no significant difference in the number of successful intubations (p = 0.99) or intubation attempts (p = 0.55) between 1996 and 1997.

Conclusion: Psychomotor agility of air ambulance medical personnel, as measured by the success rate of endotracheal intubation, was not affected by the potential additional fatigue incurred as a result of increasing shift length from 12 to 24 hours.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Air Ambulances*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / psychology
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / standards*
  • Fatigue* / complications
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / standards*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance* / physiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance* / psychology
  • Workforce