Objective: To determine whether modifying work schedules from 24- to 12-hour shifts results in favorable improvements across a range of psychological and social variables among emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Method: Sequential (before and after) surveys were completed voluntarily by EMTs at 1 month prior to, 2 months after, and 1 year after a workshift modification (change from 24- to 12-hour shifts). The surveys assessed job satisfaction, occupational burnout, and attitudes toward work schedules. The questionnaires were completed at emergency medical service stations.
Results: Of 70 EMTs in the system, 51 (73%) completed the first 2 stages of this study; 35 (50%) completed all 3 stages. Paired-sample t-tests revealed significant differences between baseline and 2-month posttest scores on the following variables: the Maslach Burnout Inventory: Emotional Exhaustion Scale (less perceived exhaustion at 2 months); the Schedule Attitudes Survey: General Affect (perceived more positive view toward schedule at 2 months); Social/Family Impact (perceived less disruption of social/family life at 2 months); and Composite (less overall disruption in quality of life at 2 months). Statistically significant differences between baseline and 1-year posttest scores were found on the following: Schedule Attitudes Survey: General Affect (more positive view toward schedule at 1 year); Social/Family Impact (less disruption in social/family life at 1 year); and Composite (less overall disruption in quality of life at 1 year).
Conclusion: Modifying EMTs' work schedules from 24- to 12-hour shifts was associated with improvements in EMTs' general attitudes toward their schedules, less disruption of social and family life, and decreased levels of emotional exhaustion at 2 months after the change. While the improvements in EMTs' attitudes toward their schedules persisted at the 1-year follow-up, the measure of emotional exhaustion returned to baseline.