Empower Nurses to Fight Fatigue

healthcare consultingAre you too tired to care? A recent Sentinel Event Alert published by The Joint Commission called attention to health care worker fatigue and the adverse impact it has on patient safety. It makes sense: long hours mean less quality sleep, and when you’re tired, you’re more likely to make mistakes. The alert summarizes research on the topic and recommends actions that health care organizations can take to reduce fatigue and improve patient care.

One recommendation in particular caught my eye:

  • Invite staff input into designing work schedules to minimize the potential for fatigue.

Nurses and other care staff have busy lives outside hospital walls. When hospitals and health care organizations empower nurses to collaborate with supervisors on schedules, they can work together to achieve a better work-life balance that reduces the potential for workplace fatigue. This requires a few practical steps:

  • Analyze current scheduling practices relative to patient volume/needs to determine what should change to improve workplace satisfaction and patient care.
  • Develop clear and consistent labor management policies.
  • Establish right-sized core and contingency staffing sources and ensure the individuals within those groups have the skills and traits to thrive.
  • Implement an automated labor management system capable of marrying patient demand with self-selected schedules that allow nurses and other care staff convenient access to request and process schedule changes.

Improved labor management can also reduce overtime by scheduling the right number of nurses for each shift. Less overtime means less fatigue.

What do you think? Do scheduling practices at your hospital contribute to fatigue on the job?

This blog post first appeared on the ADVANCE for Nurses blog.