Nurse Fatigue

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Fatigue Is a Costly Condition
Nursing can be a physically and emotionally draining profession. Nurses work long hours with all types of patients. And as much as we think we are invincible, the fact is, we need rest to give our patients the highest quality care possible.

There is a strong link between fatigue and accidents, mistakes, and errors. When we are fatigued, our decision-making skills decline, our reaction times lengthen, and our ability to problem solve is impaired. Specific to nursing, strong evidence links prolonged work hours, rotating shifts, and insufficient breaks to:

  • Slowed reaction time
  • Lapses of attention to detail
  • Errors of omission
  • Compromised problem solving
  • Reduced motivation
  • Decreased energy

Small mistakes add up, and cost the nation tens of billions of dollars each year.

How to Decide When to Work Overtime
Fatigue is a complex and individual occurrence. It is, however, a safety and ethical issue, with possible legal ramifications, i.e., losing your license from an error committed while fatigued.

To help nurses make balanced decisions about the number of hours, ANA has published four provisions within the Code for Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements.

  1. “The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.”
  2. “The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.”
  3. “The nurse is responsible and accountable for individual nursing practice and determines the appropriate delegation of tasks consistent with the nurse’s obligation to provide optimum patient care.”
  4. “The nurse participates in establishing, maintaining, and improving health care environments and conditions of employment conducive to the provision of quality health care and consistent with the values of the profession through individual and collective action.”

Also, remember that while you as an individual are accountable for your practice, your institution also has a responsibility to keep you, your patients, the facility, and the public safe.