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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Fighting Fatigue

Published March 26, 2013 10:20 AM by Pam Tarapchak
There's no doubt nurses work long hours doing challenging work. And based on a recent survey, this scheduling is starting to take its toll on nurses, patients and the healthcare system. A new survey titled "Nurse Staffing Strategy," commissioned by Kronos Inc. and conducted by HealthLeaders Media, revealed nurse fatigue is pervasive in the healthcare industry and may negatively impact quality care delivery, patient and employee satisfaction and operational costs.

Sixty-nine percent of healthcare professionals surveyed said fatigue had caused them to feel concern over their ability to perform during work hours. Even more alarming, nearly 65% of participants reported they had almost made an error at work because of fatigue and more than 27% acknowledged they had actually made an error resulting from fatigue.

And a study in the January/February 2011 issue of Nursing Research even linked nurses' work schedules with patient mortality.

This is obviously a big problem. So, how can nurses and healthcare systems address this fatigue problem? Perhaps one thing that should be examined is the 12-hour shift. Shorter time doing demanding work could reduce the amount of nursing fatigue and all that might come with it.

The ANA has created a position statement for employers to consider when addressing the challenge of nursing fatigue.

As it's noted, "it is the position of the American Nurses Association that all employers of registered nurses should ensure sufficient system resources to provide the individual registered nurse in all roles and settings with:

"1. a work schedule that provides for adequate rest and recuperation between scheduled work; and

"2. sufficient compensation and appropriate staffing systems that foster a safe and healthful environment in which the registered nurse does not feel compelled to seek supplemental income through overtime, extra shifts, and other practices that contribute to worker fatigue."

As reimbursement from public and private sources increasingly hinges on quality of care, nurses' work environment should not continue to be overlooked as a key factor in patient outcomes.

How does your facility address nurse fatigue in the workplace?


Is there such thing as sufficient compensation? And would a larger salary really decrease someone's desire to work overtime? I would, knowing a large number of nurses who are mothers, have to say no.

Could adequate staffing prevent fatigue? To that, I'd yell a vehement YES!  

Nursing is a tough environment, stuck halfway between a service industry and a business model.  The world can't have it both ways, otherwise mistakes are going to keep happening.

Lorettajo Kapinos March 28, 2013 6:10 PM

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