Ambulance personnel consider themselves as being healthy, but studies show they often suffer from stress-related illnesses. However, research on the causes of these stress-related illnesses is limited. This study aimed to examine the stress response of Swedish of ambulance personnel during priority-1 alarms.
During 90 priority-1 alarms salivary cortisol concentrations were measured at alarm and after end of alarm, and heart rates measured every 15 seconds. Thirteen men and six women participated in the study. A questionnaire with background data was collected. Non-parametric statistical tests were used.
Elevated heart rate (median +34.7%) was associated with the actual priority-1 alarm, and during the alarm for women. Median salivary cortisol concentrations at alarm and after end of alarm (14.0 and 14.2 nmol/L respectively) showed non-significant differences. There were individual non-identical responses to the alarms. Alarms concerning traffic accidents, fast track and children generated the highest cortisol concentrations. The stress response showed non-significant differences in age, gender or level of education. Salivary cortisol concentrations and response were lower in the afternoon shift (2pm to 8pm).
The alarm causes increased heart rate at the group level but with individual different responses. Predefined fast track schedules and traffic accidents appear to generate measurable stress. Cortisol concentration follows normal diurnal variation of cortisol regarding time point for priority-1 alarms. Time of day does not affect the heart rate
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