Situation awareness in young novice ambulance drivers: So much more than driving

Background: The intractable problem of young novice driver road crashes, and the critical role of emergency responders in attending road crashes, is well-recognised as is the critical role of situation awareness skills (SAS, ie. an understanding of ‘what is going on’ in a specific situation). Emergency responders may be young novice drivers and young novice ambulance drivers, therefore SAS will be required for safe road use. This project explored the SA demands upon young novice ambulance drivers (‘drivers’) in Queensland, Australia.
Method: A synthesis of literature regarding SAS relevant to drivers was followed by a hierarchical task analysis (HTA) and a perceptual cycle model (PCM) to explicate the complex emergency ambulance driver dispatch and response system and SAS requirements.
Results: Inadequate SA is a likely contributor to risks for drivers, patients, and other road users. The HTA revealed a plethora of opportunities for inadequate SAS to negatively impact safety. The PCM highlighted complex environmental information modifies driver ‘world’ schema (eg., medical procedures) which in turn directs their actions (eg., attending to radio/pager) that in a cyclical manner relies upon complex environmental information, etcetera.
Discussion and concluding remarks: Emergency responder SA appears quite different to ‘ordinary drivers’, suggesting well-developed road-related schema are required before young novice ambulance drivers are behind the wheel in a highly-emotive, time-critical situation. Drivers are not simply ‘driving’; they are engaged in a breadth of tasks while driving (e.g., accessing dynamic case details) which, for safety, rely upon adequate SAS, therefore training programs should target SAS development.

Source: Scott-Parker, B., Curran, M., Rune, K., Lord, W. et Salmon, P. M. (2018). Safety science, 108, 48-58.

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