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Workload analysis of emergency medical service staff – prevention and health promotion strategies

Time- and performance pressure
The key role of the emergency rescue service is to immediately help and save lives. This can only be achieved with the use of qualified technical staff. Rescue service staff thus assume a task of high social significance and responsibility. Rescue work is characterized by time- and performance pressure on the jobsite, by the confrontation with serious or fatal injuries and illnesses, by night shifts, the experience of failure, and the lack of feedback on the patient's recovering processes (Bengel, 2004). These stressors influence the health, psychological stability, the stress experience and the job satisfaction of rescue service staff. As a result of prolonged stress, their performance, efficiency (higher outlay on equal performance), secondary tasks, and other roles (eg, in the family or as a friend) are often impacted (Zapf & Semmer, 2004).

Mental stress as a key threat
Healthy, motivated and efficient employees are a crucial success factor and have significant economic importance for organizations and companies as a whole. In the modern world of today, mental stress factors have emerged as a major threat to the health of employees (Zapf & Semmer, 2004, Rigotti & Mohr, 2011). A number or research  studies point towards a significant increase in mental illness (Techniker Krankenkasse, 2017a), which is closely related to the increase in mental stress in the workplace. Studies also address the (independent) influence of mental stress on musculoskeletal disorders (Lang et al., 2012). Absenteeism, staff turnover and unmotivated employees lead to substantial finanical loss. Research indicates that work-related absenteeism is associated with approximately 44 billion Euros in Germany (Richter, Buruck, Nebel & Wolf, 2011). Notably, effective workplace health management has the potential to reduce absenteeism by up to 26% (Richter et al., 2011), to reduce stress and increase job satisfaction and motivation (Bräunig et al., 2015, Buchberger, et al., 2011; Steelman, 2008).

The research project
The project aims to

  1. systematically identify absenteeism, diagnoses, mental stress, resources and other stressors of emergency service staff by through an analysis of the current state, using a quantitative-subjective screening method (COPSOQ) and qualitative expert interviews 
  2. derive measures of prevention (reduction of health risk factors) and health promotion (strengthening of resources) in relation to the design of health-promoting work and to the strengthening of employee’s skills (behaviour). 

After completion of the project, a follow-up project (controlled intervention study) is planned. The project will 

  1. conceptualize and implement the previously derived measures into a systematic workplace health management system;
  2. review the effectiveness of the measures using evidence-based measures in a controlled study design (cross-over study).  

This following stakeholders are involved in the above mentioned project: BGW, the Unfallkasse Nord, the Techniker Krankenkasse, the DRK Mittelhessen, the Rescue Service Cooperation in Schleswig-Holstein, the Freiburg Research Center for Occupational Science and the Medical School Hamburg.


  • Bengel, J. (Hrsg.) (2004). Psychologie in Notfallmedizin und Rettungsdienst.  Heidelber: Springer.
  • Zapf, D. & Semmer, N. (2004). Stress und Gesundheit in Organisationen. In H. Schuler (Hrsg.), Enzyklopädie der Psychologie, Band 3 Organisationspsychologie (2. Aufl.; S. 1007-1112). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Rigotti, T. & Mohr, G. (2011). Gesundheit und Krankheit in der neuen Arbeitswelt. In E. Bamberg, A. Ducki & A.-M. Metz (Hrsg.), Gesundheitsförderung und Gesundheits-management in der Arbeitswelt. Ein Handbuch (S. 61-82). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Techniker Krankenkasse (2017a). Gesundheitsreport 2017. Arbeitsunfähigkeit. Hamburg.
  • Lang, J., Ochsmann, E., Kraus, T., Lang, J. W. (2012) Psychosocial work stressors as antecedents of musculoskeletal problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis of stability-adjusted longitudinal studies. Soc Sci Med. 75(7):1163-74.
  • Richter, P., Buruck, G., Nebel, C. & Wolf, S. (2011). Arbeit und Gesundheit - Risiken, Ressourcen und Gestaltung. In E. Bamberg, A. Ducki & A.-M. Metz (Hrsg.), Gesundheits-förderung und Gesundheitsmanagement in der Arbeitswelt. Ein Handbuch (S. 25-59). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Bräunig, D., Haupt, J., Kohstall, T. Kramer, I., Pieper, C. &, S. (2015). Wirksamkeit und Nutzen betrieblicher Prävention. iga. Report 28. Berlin: BKK, AOK, DGUV, vdek.
  • Buchberger, B., Heymann, R., Huppertz, H., Friep.rtner, K., Pomorin, N. & Wasem, J. (2011). Effektivität von Maßnahmen der betrieblichen Gesundheitsförderung (BGF) zum Erhalt der Arbeitsfähigkeit von Pflegepersonal. Schriftenreihe Health Technology Assessment, Bd. 114.  Köln: DIMDI.
  • Parks, K. M. & Steelman, L. A. (2008). Organizational wellness programs: A meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 13 (1), 58-68.


Prof. Dr. Britta Wulfhorst

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. habil. 
Britta Wulfhorst
Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences
Head of Department Pedagogy
Professor for Educational Sciences, focus Health Pedagogy

Fon: 040.361 226 450
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Further information

[Translate to English:] Prof. Dr. habil. Ines Pfeffer
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