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Quantifying the Physiological Stress Response to Simulated Maritime Pilotage Tasks: The Influence of Task Complexity and Pilot Experience

Main, Luana C. PhD; Wolkow, Alexander PhD; Chambers, Timothy P. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: November 2017 - Volume 59 - Issue 11 - p 1078–1083
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001161
Original Articles

Objective: The aim of this study was to quantify the stress associated with performing maritime pilotage tasks in a high-fidelity simulator.

Methods: Eight trainee and 13 maritime pilots completed two simulated pilotage tasks of varying complexity. Salivary cortisol samples were collected pre- and post-simulation for both trials. Heart rate was measured continuously throughout the study.

Results: Significant changes in salivary cortisol (P = 0.000, η2 = 0.139), average (P = 0.006, η2 = 0.087), and peak heart rate (P = 0.013, η2 = 0.077) from pre- to postsimulation were found. Varying task complexity did partially influence stress response; average (P = 0.016, η2 = 0.026) and peak heart rate (P = 0.034, η2 = 0.020) were higher in the experimental condition. Trainees also recorded higher average (P = 0.000, η2 = 0.054) and peak heart rates (P = 0.027, η2 = 0.022).

Conclusion: Performing simulated pilotage tasks evoked a measurable stress response in both trainee and expert maritime pilots.

Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Geelong, Victoria, Australia (Dr Main); NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Dr Wolkow); and Australian College of Applied Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Dr Chambers).

Address correspondence to: Dr. Timothy P. Chambers, PhD, Australian College of Applied Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, Level 10, 123 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 3000 VIC, Australia (tim.chambers@acap.edu.au).

The authors have not reported any conflicts of interest.

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Copyright © 2017 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine