Across the nation, fire departments are adopting the 48/96 work schedule, in which firefighters work 48 consecutive hours with the following 96 hours off. Our study objective was to explain and quantify the impact of switching from the Kelly schedule to the 48/96 schedule by measuring changes in sleep, feelings of daytime function, as well as perceptions of professional and personal well-being for American firefighters. Sleep diaries and self-reported surveys were administered to firefighters at an urban fire department. Sleep diaries measuring the number of hours slept and feelings of refreshment were compared one month before and four months after implementation of the 48/96 schedule. The self-reported surveys measured sleepiness levels via the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Secondary study objectives included changes in professional and personal well-being time for personal schedules, satisfaction, and health habits before and after the 48/96 schedule was implemented. The 59 firefighters included in the study reported an increase in sleep on-shift after the new schedule implementation (5.8 to 6.6 hours/night, p < 0.001). Participants also reported increased feelings of refreshment on days off (p < 0.001) and decreased daytime sleepiness (p < 0.001). We also found a general trend of improved perceptions of satisfaction, less shift interference with personal schedules and decreased feelings of burnout. American firefighters appeared to benefit from a 48/96 schedule, with short-term improvements in sleep patterns, feelings of burnout, and time for personal schedules.
Key words: firefighters, shift-work sleep disorder, emergency medical technicians, workplace, sleep, fatigue, burnout, professional, organizational culture