Registered nurses and their employers need to collaborate to reduce nurse fatigue, and the related risks for nurses and their patients, according to an updated position statement from the American Nurse’s Association (ANA).
“Research shows that prolonged work hours can hinder a nurse’s performance and have negative impacts on patients’ safety and outcomes,” ANA president Pamela F. Cipriano says in the statement. “We’re concerned not only with greater likelihood for errors, diminished problem solving, slower reaction time and other performance deficits related to fatigue, but also with dangers posed to nurses’ own health.”
Recommendations from the ANA to reduce nurse fatigue:
Limit nurses’ work shifts to 12 hours and work weeks to 40 hours within seven days
Restrict consecutive 12-hour shifts to three days in a row and allowing two days of rest after three consecutive 12-hour shifts.
Give nurses frequent, uninterrupted rest breaks during work shifts.
Enact official policies that give RNs the right to accept or reject a work assignment based on preventing risks from fatigue without worrying about allegations of patient abandonment or losing their jobs
Relieve nurses called in during an off-shift of working a full shift the next day as scheduled.
Encourage nurses to sleep 7-9 hours per day, develop effective stress management habits and nap during breaks when possible
As a travel nurse, you may not have as much say in your schedule or might feel uncomfortable telling a supervisor you don’t know as well that you need a break between shifts. Here are three more ways you can manage nurse fatigue and make the most of your assignment:
7. Focus on resting on your days off
One positive aspect of working as a travel nurse is that you don’t have to worry about cleaning and caring for a home. While you’ll still have to do laundry and occasionally run errands, you should have more time to get rest. Try to establish a sleep routine (especially if you’re working the night shift) and save chores for later, when you’ve been able to sleep and regain your energy.
8. Eat healthy and get some exercise
Exhaustion is only exacerbated by eating a diet full of fast food and spending hours on the couch on your day off. While getting plenty of sleep is important, you’ll have more energy (and get more restful sleep) if you get some moderate exercise during the day. Try walking briskly for 30 minutes to start, or find someone to jog with you in the mornings. Zumba and other dance classes are also a great way to stay active and connect with other people in the community as well.
9. Be honest about your workload
If you’ve worked four 12-hour shifts in a row and are scheduled for another shift, let your manager know that you’re exhausted and worry about making mistakes on the job. He or she should be understanding and allow you to take a day or two to rest — and you’ll protect yourself and your patients.
Are you currently able to follow the ANA’s suggestions for reducing fatigue? What tips do you have for coping with exhaustion?