Preventing Nurse Fatigue Again in the Spotlight

Preventing Nurse Fatigue Again in the Spotlight January 16, 2015 by Vickie Anenberg

The topic of how to prevent nurse fatigue has long been discussed by professional nursing associations and healthcare leaders alike. In the third quarter of 2014, the American Nurses Association (ANA) issued a revised position statement to address this important subject in considerable detail.

The paper, “Addressing Nurse Fatigue to Promote Safety and Health,” was not initially in wide distribution. Only recently have healthcare trade media outlets begun to cover its content. A downloadable PDF of the complete paper is available here. It is a document the leaders of every healthcare provider organization should read.

According to ANA, “This statement articulates the American Nurses Association’s position with regard to the joint responsibilities of registered nurses and employers to reduce risks from nurse fatigue and to create and sustain a culture of safety, a healthy work environment, and a work-life balance.”

Addressing employers specifically, ANA stated, “Employers of registered nurses are responsible for establishing a culture of safety, a healthy work environment; and for implementing evidence-based policies, procedures, and strategies that promote healthy nursing work schedules and that improve alertness.”

The Association went on to provide details about the seven strategies it suggests employers should implement for nurses. Briefly, these strategies include:

  1. Eliminate the use of mandatory overtime.
  2. Have employers adopt—as official policy—the position that registered nurses have the right to accept or reject a work assignment on the basis of preventing risks from fatigue.
  3. Institute an anonymous reporting system for employees so they can give information about their accidents, errors, and near misses.
  4. Institute policies that address the design of work schedules, such as limits on overtime; actions to take when a worker is too fatigued to work; and policies and procedures during emergencies caused by weather and major disasters.
  5. Design schedules according to evidence-based recommendations.
  6. Reduce risks of drowsy driving by providing transportation home when a nurse is too tired to drive safely, or by providing sleeping rooms close to the healthcare facility.
  7. Promote fatigue management training and education for employees and managers, including education about sleep disorders.

Prolonged fatigue can seriously impact a nurse’s health, the level of quality care they provide, and patient safety.

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