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Reducing Nurse Fatigue Risks

Keywords: career advice , stress , healthy life , work-life balance , mind , self-help
Recent times have seen considerable increases in the various fields of healthcare, and when there is much work to be done many nurses take on these challenges expecting to perform sufficiently. However, nurses throughout the years have not been able to maintain a steady balance of work that would allow them to perform in ways that actually help patients.

Hospital employees are given heavy working schedules to deal with the daily multitudes of patient cases, and especially pertaining to emergency cases where help is needed immediately, nurses often frantically pace back and forth in order to help doctors do their jobs. The job descriptions of doctors and nurses are different because of varying responsibilities. Doctors get to the heart of the matter and perform the most complex deeds such as key surgery procedures, and while nurses are present to give the doctors support, they are the ones who constantly watch over the patients to make sure that their conditions are not worsening. 

The daily flow of work in hospitals remains at a fast pace and sometimes this fast pace increases to a point where even the most experienced nurses are not capable of keeping up. Having the appropriate amount of time to work with and having the right feel for every patient case are key factors in allowing nurses to work with the daily flow. Various studies have determined that fatigue in nurses has led to more harmful and dangerous situations in hospitals. 

Some of the findings from the Registered Nurse Staffing Act of 2013 have been astonishing. Healthcare worker fatigue has been determined to be a major safety hazard for patients, and appropriate staffing policies and practices are recommended as an effective strategy to reduce healthcare worker fatigue and to protect the health of patients. A national survey of registered nurses found that 74% experienced acute or chronic effects of stress and overwork. 

A study held by Jeannie Cimiotti, Linda Aiken and some colleagues was revealed in July 2012 and it examined nurse burnout and emotional exhaustion. They found that for every extra patient assigned to a nurse, the rate of catheter infection increased by 1 infection per 1,000 patients. This study also stated that Pennsylvania could prevent up to 4,160 infections by decreasing the amount of nurse burnout from 30% to 10%, which would also result in considerable economic savings. While $8.3 Million to $21.9 Million would still be spent on hospitals, reduced nurse burnout alone would save hospitals as much as $44 Million. 

Nurses suffering from fatigue also don't fare well when they are going to and from work. Due to reduced vigilance and not being able to pay as much attention to the road, drowsy drivers are more prone to becoming involved in vehicular accidents. Sleep is very critical in the way that all workers, nurses and otherwise, perform their tasks and doctors recommend that people receive at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep in a day. Another study on nurses with fatigue showed that there is a 3.4% chance of committing an error in medical and surgical cases when nurses get less than 6 hours of sleep in 24 hours and less than 12 hours of sleep in 48 hours. 

Since hospitals spend so much time taking care of sick and injured patients, it would be reasonable to say that hospitals can also take out time to take care for their employees. Nurses have issued complaints over the years about how their roles are being handled in hospitals and being fatigued has consistently emerged as a core reason for their discontent. There are some ways to reducing the risks that associate with fatigued nurses.

Having hospital directors involve the nurses when they develop work schedules would be a good step forward. When a nurse receives his or her schedule and knows that flexibility is present, there is a lower probability of that nurse becoming stressed when he or she goes to work. There are many occurrences when nurses are not given any time to speak with high-ranking hospital officials, and the lack of communication hinders working relationships. Giving nurses the ability to represent themselves when discussing schedules would allow officials to better understand the habits of the nurses they employ.

Achieving the right balance when it comes to hours per day at the hospital would be key. Having unpredictable and overlapping work schedules would only serve to confuse and frustrate nurses considering how intense the work environment can get as the day goes along. Limiting a nurse's work week to 40 hours within 7 days and limiting single shifts to a maximum of 12 hours would be another example of reducing nurse fatigue. If there is no balance to a nurse's work schedule, then there is a greater chance of that nurse's daily performances becoming unbalanced as well. While time equals money, it also equals periods of relaxation and relieving any stress that was accumulated in the day.

Another way to reduce the fatigue of nurses would be to establish a better foundation of communication between all departments of the hospitals. Going beyond the work schedules, giving nurses time to communicate with high-ranking hospital officials on a variety of subjects would go a long way in developing better working relationships. If the officials have a better idea of what to expect from their nurses, then they would have a better idea of how to handle their nurses because they are like patients in the sense that they need the proper care and respect to function in their space.

Implementing voluntary health and stress management programs would be a great way to recharge and refresh nurses who are going through periods of fatigue. Nurses need time to let go of the stress and sometimes they cannot be pushed to constantly rush through the hospital without being able to take a step back and relax. Having nurses participate in these voluntary programs for short periods of their shifts, or in other cases when they are off their shifts, allows them to socialize more freely and escape the worrisome environments that they may find themselves in when on the job. The idea of these programs is to encourage nurses to slow down and push aside the pressure of their occupation. Encouraging nurses to take uninterrupted breaks would also be a viable option if they choose not to participate in health and stress management programs. 

Implementing policies that give nurses the option of accepting and rejecting assignments would create an entirely new path, but a necessary one. Giving nurses veto power in determining what they can and cannot handle in the hospital would give high-ranking officials an easier time to identify what specific kinds of roles nurses will have. Not all nurses can do the exact same things. While all nurses are trained to do the most basic parts of the job, not all nurses are able to assist doctors in the most challenging and complex parts. Officials also have to take into account how much experience each nurse has. Also, some nurses will be making the transition from their current position to a different position whether it is within or outside the hospital environment. 

It does not strictly boil down to the fact that a hospital employs nurses to do their jobs, but rather to the specific knowledge that a hospital has on its nurses. It is with this knowledge that nurses will be less likely to become fatigued from their work.