Nurses face urgent scenarios every day that require quick thinking. A keen sense of situational awareness—i.e. understanding what’s happening with a patient and what’s likely to happen in the future—is critical to clinical decision-making. However, actually achieving situational awareness is threatened by nurse fatigue, which is dangerous for both clinicians and patients.
Fatigue is not the same as sleepiness—it’s a feeling of persistent weariness and exhaustion that makes it hard to focus or complete tasks. Chronic fatigue can cause serious problems and jeopardize patient safety. Nurse fatigue can lead to lapses in attention and memory, according to a report from The Joint Commission. It can impact patient care and a nurse’s ability to be empathetic or patient-focused.
Though nurses should do their part to mitigate the effects of fatigue by getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, staying hydrated, and maintaining an active family and social life, they also need support from their employers. Here are three ways that nurse managers and hospital leaders can work to prevent nurse fatigue and improve patient safety at their hospitals:
1 | Redesign work schedules to limit 12-hour shifts. Nurses work long hours, and are often required to extend their long shifts further. In most hospitals, 12-hour shifts (or longer) are the norm for nurses and other clinicians. On paper, this schedule looks ideal—three days on and four days off from work is appealing to many nurses. However, research consistently shows the opposite. Long shifts combined with mandatory overtime, shifts that switch between day and night duties, and back-to-back shifts can lead to burnout, fatigue, poor patient outcomes and an increase in the risk of nurses making medical errors.
2 | Maintain adequate staffing levels. High nurse-to-patient ratios can cause already tired nurses to feel overworked and even more fatigued during and after a shift. Plus, unsatisfactory nurse-to-patient ratios place patients at an increased risk of medical errors, falls and hospital-acquired infections. Amplion Alert allows clinical leadership to reduce the nursing workload by automatically directing non-clinical care requests (water, toileting) to care techs, allowing nurses to focus on providing clinical care.
3 | Encourage short breaks for rest and food. How often do your nurses skip a bathroom or food break because they’re busy with a patient? Their dedication is admirable, but healthy, well-rested nurses will result in healthier patients. Make breaks mandatory, requiring a sign out so that those not taking breaks can be coached. Amplion Alert allows nurses to “sign off” for a break, automatically forwarding patient requests to the nurse’s backup.
At Amplion, we understand the intense nature of nurses’ jobs, and we’re dedicated to making their jobs easier. Our next-generation Amplion Alert Care Assurance Platform combines smart technology and workflow optimization tools to improve nurse call, alarm management, patient safety and care coordination. Our point-of-care real-time* data helps nurse leaders achieve workload balance and improve nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Plus, with Amplion Alert’s Care Traffic Control center, nurses can “sign off” for a break, and Amplion Alert will automatically forward patient requests to the nurse’s backup. Nurses can take a stress-free break, without worrying about their patients. Hospitals that use our data-driven software improve nurse satisfaction, reduce nurse fatigue and burnout, and provide higher-quality patient care.
* within five minutes