About 3500 nurses have so far taken part in the country's first nursing fatigue survey but researchers are keen for more – particularly mental health nurses – before the survey closes at the end of March.
The Safer Nursing 24/7: Nationwide Survey was launched online in early October to gather data on public hospital nurses' work and sleep patterns with the aim of better managing nurse fatigue and improving both patient safety and the health and wellbeing of nurses.
Dr Karyn O'Keeffe, manager of the major Health Research Council-funded project, said the survey had had a great response so far, and it was very appreciative of the nurses who had given their time to complete the about 20 minute online survey. "But we'd love to hear from even more nurses."
"This project is a collaborative one between nurses and the research team, and the outcomes from the project will have direct applicability to nursing practice, so I can’t emphasise enough how important it is that nurses participate so their voice is heard," said O'Keeffe.
She said a major aim of the project is to develop a Code of Practice for managing shift work and fatigue in public hospital-based nursing and to achieve this researchers needed a large amount of data from district health board registered and enrolled nurses. "It is especially important that we have a good overview of what (hours and shifts) are actually being worked in New Zealand and the impact that has," said O'Keeffe.
Five months after being launched about 3500 nurses have completed the online survey with the highest participation to date from nurses in the emergency/trauma and intensive care/cardiac care practice areas. O'Keeffe said the practice area it hadn't heard so much from was in-patient/acute mental health nurses. "So we've very keen to boost responses from nurses in that practice area."
She said for researchers to be able to draw meaningful conclusions from the data it was very important to have enough data from nurses in each of the six practice areas the research was focused on, so it wanted more eligible nurses from all areas to take part.
The survey is open to all District Health Board registered or enrolled nurses working for 30 hours or more in the practice areas: surgical, medical, in-patient mental health, child health (including neonatology), emergency/trauma, and intensive care/cardiac care. The shift-working practice areas were chosen because they had a high likelihood of fatigue.
The anonymous online survey takes nurses about 20 minutes and asks about their work schedules, usual sleep patterns and sleepiness, and their experiences and management of fatigue, including fatigue-related errors.
The Safer Nursing 24/7 project is a three year research project, mostly funded* by an $890,000 Health Research Council grant, lead by Professor Philippa Gander of Massey University's Sleep/Wake Research Centre. Gander and O'Keeffe are working in collaboration with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Massey Nursing Professor Annette Huntington and a nurse-dominated advisory group.
Prior to launching the survey the researchers asked the directors of nursing at each DHB to provide information on nursing numbers and shift types in each of the six practice areas so they could check whether survey responses were representative. The information asked for included the number of nurses working shifts of particular lengths, the percentage of nurses working rotating versus permanent shifts, the number of full-time versus part-time nurses, and the current total number of nurses in each of the six practice areas.
The online survey is open until the end of March and analysis of the data is due to begin in April. O'Keeffe said the data analysis was expected to take some months and it would also be working with the advisory group to determine factors that should be included in the fatigue risk assessment tools being developed during the project.
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 also be available via the project's website.
*The project also has additional funding from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, McCutchan Trust and Massey University.