Effects Of Fatigue On Nurses And Patient Safety

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Fighting Nurse Fatigue Since the early days of nursing when nurses would work extended shifts and even lived on the wards where they worked, nurse fatigue has been a much discussed issue. During the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, workers spanning several industries fought for the eight hour work day and eventually won with the passage of the US Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 (Miller, 2011). In the years since then, the extended shift has again become popular, particularly in the field of nursing. Though many nurses and organizations laud twelve hour shifts as beneficial to staffing needs and personal lives, the risks to patient and nurse safety must be considered.
Effects of Nurse Fatigue
Merriam-Webster (2014) describes fatigue as “weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress”. Fatigue can be caused or worsened by extended hours of wakefulness, acute or chronic sleep debt (Birmingham, Dent, & Ellerbe, 2013), and increased stress of workload including higher acuity patients. The effects of fatigue on nurse and patient safety have been shown to increase the risk of patient care errors three fold with an increase in the risk of near errors and occupational injuries, as well (Joint Commission, 2012). Nurses have reported experiencing an increase in medication errors, difficulty staying awake and decreased productivity in the last four hours of their twelve hour shift (Keller, 2009). Patient hand-off reports are also a high-risk area that suffers when the

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