Causes and management of sleepiness among pilots in a Norwegian and an Austrian air ambulance service—a comparative study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Objective We compared subjectively reported sleepiness and fatigue as well as causes and management strategies for combating sleepiness among pilots working in 2 different helicopter emergency medical services operating with different shift systems. Methods Pilots from the Norwegian Air Ambulance (NAA) and Christophorus Flugrettungsverein (CFV) in Austria participated. NAA performs flight missions 24/7, whereas at the time of the study the participating CFV bases did not fly after sunset. The pilots are on duty for 1 week in both services. NAA and CFV used an identical research protocol, including questionnaires about sleep, sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Karolinska Sleepiness Scale), coping strategies, and work-related causes of fatigue. Results CFV pilots kept busy, whereas NAA pilots slept and did physical exercise as strategies to prevent sleepiness. The majority in both groups used napping and coffee consumption as strategies. CFV pilots reported more frequently than NAA pilots that administrative duties and environmental factors were reasons preventing napping. Conclusion Some differences existed between the 2 pilot groups regarding strategies for managing sleepiness and causes that prevented pilots from napping. Pilots in both groups were healthy, physically active, and had normal Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Karolinska Sleepiness Scale scores.