Fatigue is a very real problem for every worker across a variety of industries. However, this issue can be magnified in healthcare, where employees - often nurses - work extended shifts while administering critical care to patients.
Known as "nurse fatigue," this problem is exacerbated due to the 12- or 16-hour shift that has become commonplace in the industry. More nurses are working these long shifts, often overnight, and that has the potential to complicate health and safety.
Can fatigue increase risk?
A tired employee can be a dangerous employee. For nurses, they might be too fatigued to properly treat a patient. They could give a person the wrong medication or miss a critical symptom, for example.
"Tired nurses could jeopardize patient safety."
According to American Nurse Today, medical errors are a significant problem in healthcare today. A link could be made between fatigue and a surge in preventable errors. Other industries are making changes, such as long-haul trucking, which prevents drivers from being on the road for a certain number of hours.
For nurses, fatigue can not only affect their patients, but also themselves. American Nurse Today explained that the odds of an occupational injury increase during extended shifts or night shifts. A lack of sleep can also take away crucial recovery time for the body, further complicating matters.
Fatigue should be a priority
It is no secret that nurses are tired - and in some cases, overworked. A position statement from the American Nurses Association noted that combating fatigue must be the responsibility of nurses and their employers.
The ANA recommended a collaborative environment to achieve this goal. This approach has the ability to improve patient and worker health and safety and even reduce workers' compensation insurance claims.
The ANA offered several suggestions for employers to prevent nurse fatigue. These include:
These are just several ideas that can help reduce fatigue at the workplace. Above all else, employers must recognize that overtired nurses are a real problem. Working with employees to come up with viable solutions, and then implementing those changes across the board, can keep workers and patients safe.