Shift working nurses: how fatigued are you?

4 October 2016

A national online survey into nurse fatigue is launching this week and shift working nurses are being urged to share their work and sleep patterns.

The Safer Nursing 24/7: Nationwide Survey is the start of a major three-year research project  – lead by Professor Philippa Gander and funded by an $890,000 Health Research Council grant – which aims to better manage shift work related nurse fatigue to improve both patient safety and the health and wellbeing of hospital nurses.

Project manager Dr Karyn O’Keeffe says studies in Australia and the United States of America show nurses get less sleep on work days than non-work days - how much less depends on the shift pattern.

"Less sleep is directly related to increased risk of clinical errors, struggling to stay awake at work, and drowsy-driving on the way home," said O'Keeffe.

"The hours of sleep someone gets in the 24-hour period before their shift significantly affects their ability to remain awake at work, and is a significant predictor of errors and near errors. Sleep-deprived nurses report a higher number of patient-care errors, and an American study found nurses struggled to stay awake on 20 per cent of their shifts," Dr O’Keeffe says. Trying to work in the wrong part of the circadian body block cycle also leads to workplace fatigue. 

The project is based at Massey University's Sleep/Wake Research Centre, which Gander is director of.  Gander and O'Keeffe will be working with NZNO researcher Dr Leonie Walker, Massey nursing professor Annette Huntington and a nurse-dominated advisory group.

Nurses working for 30 hours or more for a district health board in six practice areas with a high likelihood of fatigue are being invited to take part in the survey which goes live on October 6.  The practice areas are: surgical, medical, in-patient mental health, child health (including neonatology), emergency/trauma, and intensive care/cardiac care.

The anonymous online survey will take nurses about 20 minutes and ask about their work schedules, usual sleep patterns and sleepiness, and their experiences and management of fatigue, including fatigue-related errors. 

"The survey is a crucial component of the project and we would like as many nurses to participate as possible," said researcher Dr Karyn O'Keeffe. She said the data would be used to develop fatigue risk assessment tools, and inform development of a Code of Practice for managing shift work and fatigue in hospital nursing. 

O'Keeffe said the research team anticipated collecting survey data for at least three months and to start analyzing the data in around April next year as the first step in developing nursing fatigue risk assessment  tools.  She said the team would be sharing results with the nursing community on the project website and other avenues during the analysis process.

One of the other main project outcomes will be education and training materials for DHB nurses  – which will be informed by the survey data and the resulting nursing fatigue risk assessment tools – and will also be available via the project's website.

To take part in the survey or learn more about the project check out the website from October 6 at: www.safernursing24-7.co.nz

The project received additional funding from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, McCutchan Trust and Massey University.

 

 

 

 

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