Multiple dimensions of work intensity: ambulance work as edgework

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Edge Hill University
  • The York Management School, University of York, York, UK
  • University of Manchester


Working life in public sector professions is undergoing significant change and becoming increasingly demanding. This paper explores work intensity in NHS ambulance services in England, describing four distinct but interrelated dimensions of intensity: temporal, physical, emotional, and organizational. We use the concept of edgework to explore the complexities involved in how emergency workers attempt to negotiate the rewards and risks associated with multidimensional work intensity. Although certain parts of ambulance work may be intrinsically intense and can provide an important source of validation, organizational elements have the potential to push work intensity to unnecessary extremes. Ambulance services are ‘professionalizing’, but as work in ambulance trusts continues to intensify, issues over dignity, staff retention, and the meaning of work are becoming ever more challenging, just as they are in other public service professions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-297
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Issue number2
Early online date19 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2018


  • ambulance work, edgework, Emergency services, extreme work, work intensification