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Multiple Jobs Add to Nurse Fatigue

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, January 28, 2014

She says that these nurses are totally honest about having two jobs, and that the hospital has no policy governing what its staff does in their off-time.

The Root of Fatigue: Money
Yet Hughes recalls experiences that should make any nurse leader question their employees who work more than one job. She says she's seen everything from nurses who act surly toward patients to ones who fail to double-check medication labels. She even had a nurse who arrived to work a 12-hour day shift immediately after working a 12-hour night shift at another facility.

"I sent her home," Hughes says. "I would rather [work] short staffed than with a dangerously fatigued nurse."

So why do nurses tax themselves this way, especially when evidence shows that fatigue impairs function and decision-making?

"The most common reason is money," Hughes says. "We have single parents, persons trying to fund children's college tuition, persons trying to fund their own college tuition, persons who have not set back money for retirement and now are nearing retirement and trying to get money put aside"

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5 comments on "Multiple Jobs Add to Nurse Fatigue"

Jennifer Fox (2/18/2014 at 10:18 PM)
If a nurse cannot live on the meager income received with just one job while going to school and supporting a family, then perhaps that is the wrong field to pursue in the first place. Many nurses are trying to move out of the quagmire of all work no pay that nursing offers. There are plenty of well paying jobs with regular raises, advancement and educational assistance that would not require a second income in order to live a far better existence. Informed school counselors could curb a lot of the problem of students going into a field that looks much greener and friendlier than it is. Since there is no chance of increasing pay, improving working conditions or staffing appropriately for safe patient care, nipping the problem in the bud seems reasonable.

Andrea Sehmel (2/5/2014 at 2:08 PM)
I would say that nurses could benefit from financial counseling; it's definitely not part of our education - it's assumed that we absorb it somewhere, and that's not necessarily the case. It's like cutting out salt for a hypertensive patient, though, it's a hard habit to change - the long-term effects are not sufficiently tangible now. Further, pay for nursing educators has to change - I took on a teaching position after a back injury made direct patient care an impossibility... with a 60% pay cut. State nurse professional organizations could offer financial counseling for nurses. State legislatures need to significantly improve educator pay, or face dire shortages.

Judy Sheehan (2/3/2014 at 4:46 PM)
I have noticed many nurses who work part time because that is what is available at their place of employment. If employers hire nurses as part-time employees to reduce expense and avoid the cost of benefits then you would expect nurses to hold more than one job. Nurses should be held accountable for practicing in any impaired state. It is understanding that fatigue causes impairment that must be incorporated into the nursing profession.