Nurses that work long hours are fatigued and impact patient safety
In the United States 20% of America work shift work. The average nurse works three 12 hour shifts a week. I work three 13 hour shifts.
Even though they only work three days a week the sleep deprived nurse still has personal and family things to take care of on the days they work. Most nurses commute to their job at least 25 minutes one way that is 50 minutes travel time before they start working the long hour shifts.
Nurses usually work at least one back to back shift and some facility work three shifts in a row. The average sleep that a nurse will get will be 4-5 hours before returning to a demanding job all over again.
Nurses are expected and required to pass medication accurately, chart observations accurately, respond to patients needs on demand, assist the Doctor, be a patient advocate, family support, supervise the staff on the unit with professionalism. On top on thinking about what they have going on at home.
A nurse is require to be focused using sharp observation skills to the normal and abnormals of her patient. Being at the top of the game – with a cup of coffee and a donut.
How do I know about these crazy hours? Because I have worked them for 24 years.
Let me give you an example of my day. I get up at 6 AM to get both boys to ready for school. Once they have been dropped off to start their day. I will go walk 2-3 miles before going back home to do laundry clean house, work in the home office then back to school to pick up the kiddos. Wait – It doesn't stop there. Either one or both boys will have a sporting event to attend that day – so arrangements have to be made for them. Finally home to get ready for a 45 minute commute to work a 13 hour shift. Normally I will work at least one back to back day leaving me room to sleep (if I can ) 4 hours before I have to get up and to get the kids from school prior to getting ready for day two of a 45 minute commute to work 13 more hours.
Is there any doubt why nurses and medical professionals turn high doses of caffeine and sugar products to keep up with their shift. There is a growing concern over the retention of nursing. Due to high stress work areas like mental health – the aging profession is not being replaced with nurses that are willing to work long hours and holidays as they have in the past. Nursing is hard work. It tires the mind, the body and the emotions. Nurses are with patients twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Other industries have been aware for many years of the links between fatigue and accidents, mistakes, errors and near errors. For instance, the airline and trucking industries limit the number of hours pilots and truck drivers can fly/drive. They also require a certain number of hours between "flights" or "runs" Why? They do this because research has proved that one’s decision making skills decline with fatigue; reaction times lengthen with fatigue; and problem solving is impaired. All of these outcomes of fatigue contribute to decreased safety in the air and on the highway. No surprise to most nurses, the data show that most reported medication errors were “made by nurses."
All of these factors make nursing a very physically and emotionally draining profession. Then to add to the stress – some of the facilities are not forgiving with nurses who call out on a shift due to personal reasons. This leads to a write up that goes in the nurses file for possible future dismissal from poor attendance.
The next time you see a nurse that looks a little grumpy, she could be worried about her own sick child at home. Financial problems, over whelmed with job duties or fatigue. Give her a smile, It maybe just what the Doctor ordered.
Angela is a nurse that has worked for 21 years in the same state funded psychiatric hospital assisting some clients that others might refuse to treat. She works on the psychiatric ward.
She also runs her own company on the side and supports other nurses in how to bring passion into their role at work. Out of the box remedies for speaking to people and more.
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