Physical and psychological health in intern paramedics commencing shift work: Protocol for an exploratory longitudinal study

Meagan E. Crowther, Sally Ferguson, Robert Adams, Katya Kovac, Jessica Paterson, Amy Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Background Paramedics are routinely exposed to shift work. Existing research shows that shift work exposure is associated with adverse mental and physical health outcomes. However, the current understanding of the impact of commencing shift work in a paramedic role on health is limited. This can be addressed by recruiting new paramedics before they commence shift work, and conducting regular follow-ups of potential biological, psychological and social changes. The present study aimed to examine changes in biological, psychological and social factors relative to pre-shift work baseline in a cohort of paramedics commencing intern employment with an Australian ambulance service. Method and analysis This observational, mixed-methods, longitudinal study aims to recruit 40 interns from one Australian ambulance service. Data collection will occur at baseline (standard day schedule for initial training), and subsequently at three months, six months, nine months and twelve months, to measure biological, psychological and social changes relative to baseline measurements. Changes in cardiometabolic markers (cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose), microbiome (self-collected stool samples), sleep and physical activity (actigraphy) will be measured. Interns will also complete a battery of self-report questionnaires, sleep diaries and qualitative interviews to explore various psychological and social variables over time. Statistical analyses will be conducted using mixed effects regression, specifying a random effect of subject on the intercept, allowing participants to vary according to individual baseline levels, as well as tracking progress over time, appropriately accounting for serial correlation. Qualitative study components will be analysed via coding and thematic analysis procedures. Discussion The present study protocol is a comprehensive outline of the observational study planned. The study will allow for greater knowledge of any changes in biological, psychological and social factors during a 12-month transition to shift work. The findings from the proposed study will have implications for the development of strategies to support early-career shift workers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0273113
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12 December
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Shift work
  • Paramedics
  • Psychological health
  • Physical health
  • Interns


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