Qualitative study of Queensland paramedics' perceived influences on their food and meal choices during shift work

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Abstract

Aim:

This study aimed to explore the perceived influences on food and meal choices of Queensland paramedics during shift work.

Methods:

A qualitative study using individual semi-structured telephone interviews was conducted on a purposive sample of 15 paramedics working on a rotating shift roster in Queensland. Interviews explored the perceived influences on their food choices while working shifts. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and content analysed manually using open-coding inductive thematic analysis.

Results:

A conceptual model was developed that illustrated four major themes of influences on food choices that emerged from the data analysis. These themes were physiological influences, psychosocial influences, the physical environment and the organisational environment. Of significant influence on the participants' food choice unique to the nature of their shift work was the meal break structure and being ambulance based for the majority of their shift.

Conclusions:

The specific influences affecting the food choice of paramedics are created by the environmental influences in which they work and result in extended periods of not eating or ‘opportunistic eating’. This has implications for their ability to make ‘healthy food choices’. Further investigation into strategies to enable paramedics to improve food choice within the context of the unpredictable nature of their workload and their work environment is warranted.

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