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Nurse Fatigue

Working on the front line of health care is an immensely rewarding experience, and it can also be a tiring one. Due to the pressures that are placed on the modern nurse – such as through inadequate staffing levels or increased clinical responsibilities – instances of unacceptably high levels of fatigue in health care environments are on the rise.

Inadequate sleep and the resulting fatigue can have major implications for the health and safety of both registered nurses and the patients in their care. Fatigue can also be costly to employers, resulting in increases in health care and workers’ compensation costs, early disability, recruitment and training costs, and legal fees. The dangers of workplace fatigue are real, and the American Nurses Association (ANA) is actively working to counter them.

Our response

As ANA president Pam Cipriano explains in the video below, ANA recognizes that nurse fatigue, and the underlying workplace issues that contribute to it, is one of our members’ primary concerns. We have made finding ways of dealing with it one of our key goals.

Nursing: The Infrastructure of Safety

Reducing Nurse Fatigue

Addressing nurse fatigue

To help us better understand the issue and its causes, in 2014 ANA convened a Professional Issues Panel to investigate the issue of fatigue and map out a way forward. The hard work of the panel resulted in the adoption by ANA of a revised, evidence-based mission statement – ‘Addressing Nurse Fatigue to Promote Safety and Health: Joint Responsibilities of Registered Nurses and Employers to Reduce Risks.

Registered nurses and employers in all care settings must collaborate to reduce the risks of nurse fatigue and sleepiness associated with shift work and long work hours. Evidence-based strategies must be implemented to proactively address nurse fatigue and sleepiness; to promote the health, safety, and wellness of registered nurses; and to ensure optimal patient outcomes...

Extract from ANA position on nurse fatigue

Collaboration is the key

Central to ANA’s proposed approach is the principle of collaboration. The mission statement emphasizes that only by adopting a shared approach to dealing with the factors that cause fatigue, can nurses and employers create a healthy and safe environment within which positive patient outcomes are the only priority.

For employers, this means the provision of adequate resources; the constant monitoring of schedules, staffing patterns, and fatigue-related incidents; and a pledge to ensure that they support their staff in being able to properly rest and return to work feeling rested.

For nurses, it means taking responsibility for managing their professional and personal lives to help mitigate the effects of fatigue – such as by ensuring they are well rested before shifts, taking adequate breaks at work, and not working too many consecutive days.

What you can do

One of the best things a nurse can do to combat fatigue is make sure they get a good night’s sleep. We have pulled together a series of resources to help you do just that, and created an online course designed to help nurses deal with Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD).

ANA resources on healthy sleep

What we are doing

Many of the factors that contribute towards workplace fatigue are the focus of much of ANA’s advocacy work at both the state and federal levels of government. For example, we support the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act (H.R. 2083) which would hold hospitals accountable for the development of valid, reliable unit-by-unit nurse staffing plans.

Read more about ANA’s advocacy in Congress

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