The American Nurses Association (ANA) calls for stronger collaboration between registered nurses (RNs) and their employers to reduce the risks of nurse fatigue for patients and nurses associated with shift work and long hours, and emphasizes strengthening a culture of safety in the work environment in a new position statement.
ANA contends that evidence-based strategies must be implemented to proactively address nurse fatigue and sleepiness. Such strategies are needed to promote the health, safety, and wellness of RNs and ensure optimal patient outcomes.
“Research shows that prolonged work hours can hinder a nurse’s performance and have negative impacts on patients’ safety and outcomes,” says ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “We’re concerned not only with greater likelihood for errors, diminished problem solving, slower reaction time, and other performance deficits related to fatigue, but also with dangers posed to nurses’ own health.”
Research links shift work and long working hours to sleep disturbances, injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, gastrointestinal problems, mood disorders, obesity, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and adverse reproductive outcomes.
ANA offers numerous evidence-based recommendations for RNs and employers to enhance performance, safety, and patient outcomes, such as the following suggestions:
•Involve nurses in the design of work schedules and use a regular and predictable schedule so nurses can plan for work and personal responsibilities.
•Limit work weeks to 40 hours within seven days and work shifts to 12 hours.
•Eliminate the use of mandatory overtime as a “staffing solution.”
•Promote frequent, uninterrupted rest breaks during work shifts.
•Enact official policy that confers RNs the right to accept or reject a work assignment based on preventing risks from fatigue. The policy should include conditions that a rejected assignment does not constitute patient abandonment, and that RNs should not suffer adverse consequences in retaliation for such a decision.
•Encourage nurses to manage their health and rest, including sleeping seven to nine hours per day; developing effective stress management, nutrition, and exercise habits; and using naps in accordance with policy.
The position statement was developed by a Professional Issues Panel, established by the ANA Board of Directors. The panel was comprised of 15 ANA member nurses with expertise on the issue, with additional input from an advisory committee of about 350 members who expressed interest in participating. The statement was distributed broadly for public comment to nursing organizations, federal agencies, employers, individual RNs, safety and risk assessment experts, and others, whose suggestions were evaluated by the panel for incorporation in the statement. The new position statement replaces two 2006 position statements—one for employers and one for nurses. The statement clearly articulates that health care employers and nurses are jointly responsible for addressing the risks of nurse fatigue.
Source: American Nurses Association