Lastly, in a 2011 American Nurses Association survey, one in 10 nurses reported a motor vehicle crash they believed was related to fatigue or shift work.
Call to Action
The nature of healthcare requires night shifts for the care of patients—so no one is advocating that night shifts be abolished—but there are ways to make shift work healthier and safer for nurses and patients.
In its position statement, the American Nurses Association recommends the following actions:
- Healthcare organizations and nurses must educate themselves on the health risks linked to shift work and long work hours, including evidence-based strategies to reduce those risks.
- Healthcare organizations should use evidence-based practices when designing employees' work schedules and establish policies, programs, practices, and systems to promote sleep health and an alert workforce.
- The workplace culture should promote employees' sleep health to achieve optimum functioning, health, safety, and sense of well-being.
- Leadership must recognize the role that shift work, long shifts, and nurse fatigue have on turnover, absenteeism, patient safety, and related costs.
- To relay evidence-based personal practices and workplace interventions to maximize sleep health and alertness among nurses, experts must develop continuing education courses for nurses and nurse managers.
Resources to support these actions include The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours, and the American Nurses Association's Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation information on healthy sleep and fatigue.
"The academy is pleased to publish this important statement on reducing fatigue in nurses," says Karen Cox, PhD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, the academy's president in a news release. "Many healthcare organizations may not fully understand the health risks for both nurses and their patients from a tired workforce."
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.