Healthcare News & Insights

How your hospital can handle nurse fatigue

More facilities are hoping to use nurses to address gaps in care. But first they’ll have to keep those nurses healthy. 

461522569But that could be a challenge for some hospitals.

Nurse fatigue from long hours of shift work can drain even your most experienced nurses, and undermine the quality of care they provide.

Research has linked nurse burn out to diminished performance and problem solving, and leads to increased risk of negative outcomes and patient safety issues. There’s also evidence to show that long hours and stress lead to medical problems, like sleep issues, mood disorders and other medical conditions, which could take your nurses out of commission and leave your facility short-staffed.

Strategies for curing fatigue

The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently released a position statement on the matter, including some recommended strategies for employers to implement at facilities. It was developed by a Professional Issues Panel including 15 ANA member nurses with expertise on fatigue with the input from an advisory committee of 350 ANA members.

The ANA recommends that hospitals and nurses collaborate and implement evidence-based strategies to reduce nurse fatigue and promote positive patient outcomes.

Some of the strategies the ANA recommends hospitals use to maintain nurse performance and reduce fatigue include:

  • Involving nurses when developing work schedules. Facilities should implement a regular and predictable schedule to help nurses plan for work and manage personal responsibilities.
  • Limiting nurses’ work weeks to 40 hours within seven days, and work shifts to 12 hours. The ANA also recommends hospitals eliminate “mandatory overtime” to fill in staffing gaps.
  • Encouraging nurses to take uninterrupted breaks frequently to offset the strain from long shifts.
  • Implementing policies the give nurses the option of accepting or rejecting assignments for the sake of preventing side-effects from fatigue. The policy should make it clear that rejecting an assignment is not “patient abandonment,” and that hospital leaders won’t retaliate against nurses for their decision to pass on assignments.

In order to prevent nurse fatigue and retain your nursing staff, hospital leaders should encourage nurses to manage their health and stress.

They should also promote stress-management methods and good nutrition to keep their nursing staff in peak physical and mental condition. For some facilities, this may mean encouraging nurses to use up saved vacation hours despite concerns about their workload.

It’s important that facility leaders stay tuned in to their nursing staffs’ needs so they can effectively address issues like fatigue or dissatisfaction, which may hurt nurse productivity and retention. One way to accomplish this is to include nurses as leaders in your facility to help you develop effective policies.

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