Assessing air medical crew real-time readiness to perform critical tasks. Academic Article uri icon


  • Air medical transport has had problems with its safety record, attributed in part to human error. Flight crew members (FCMs) must be able to focus on critical safety tasks in the context of a stressful environment. Flight crew members' cognitive readiness (CR) to perform their jobs may be affected by sleep deprivation, personal problems, high workload, and use of alcohol and drugs.The current study investigated the feasibility of using a computer-based cognitive task to assess FCMs' readiness to perform their job.The FCMs completed a short questionnaire to evaluate their physiologic and psychological state at the beginning and end of each shift. The FCMs then performed 3 minutes of a computer-based cognitive task called synthetic work environment (SYNWIN test battery). Task performance was compared with the questionnaire variables using correlation and regression analysis. Differences between the beginning and end of each shift were matched and compared using a paired Students t test.SYNWIN performance was significantly worse at the end of a shift compared with the beginning of the shift (p = 0.028) primarily because of decrement in the memory component. The SYNWIN composite scores were negatively correlated to degree of irritability felt by the participant, both before (r = -0.25) and after (r = -0.34) a shift and were significantly correlated with amount of sleep (0.22), rest (0.30), and life satisfaction (0.30).Performance by FCMs on a simple, rapid, computer-based psychological test correlates well with self-reported sleep, rest, life satisfaction, and irritability. Although further studies are warranted, these findings suggest that assessment of the performance of FCMs on a simple, rapid, computer-based, multitasking battery is feasible as an approach to determine their readiness to perform critical safety tasks through the SYNWIN task battery.

publication date

  • June 2011