Fatigue is the overall feeling of exhaustion and lack of energy. When experienced for long periods of time, fatigue can begin to affect the productivity of nurses. When experiencing fatigue, nurses are more likely to increase their chances of experiencing an error, diminish their productivity, and even potentially put their patients in danger by missing a vital piece of information. Prolonged fatigue can also cause health issues, lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, and even lead to nurse burnout.
In order to keep these negative consequences out of hospitals, and keep staff healthy, healthcare facilities need to implement strategies to reduce nurse fatigue. Altus found the top 18 ways to reduce nurse fatigue to help keep nurses feeling happy and healthy.
What Causes Fatigue
Knowing what causes fatigue before determining ways to reduce it is an important first step. Fatigue can be a result of health problems, habits, or routines.
Some of these include:
- Lack of sleep
- Periods of emotional stress
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Heart and lunch conditions
In a healthcare setting, completely avoiding fatigue is nearly impossible due to the nature of the job. But knowing what causes it coupled with ways to reduce it can prepare hospitals and staff alike so they can watch for the warning signs of fatigue and take the following steps to reduce the feeling.
Ways to reduce nurse fatigue
Things nurses can do:
1. Prioritize sleep
While easier said than done, it’s important for nurses to prioritize sleep. Lack of sleep is one of the top causes of fatigue, and with the long days and stressful nature of life as a nurse, sleep is not something that should be pushed off. Not enough sleep can lead to mistakes and decreased patient experience. When prioritizing sleep, nurses should aim for 7 or more hours to experience the full benefits, and keep fatigue away.
2. Focus on self-care during days off
Self-care is different for every nurse. For some it is as simple as spending time with friends, for others, it’s a specific activity. Whatever it is, by participating in self-care, nurses can instantly feel better in as little as 10 minutes.
3. Participate in physical activities outside of work
Physical activity is one of the best ways to fight off fatigue. Exercise warms up the body and muscles, which keeps it from feeling fatigued. 20% of adults report persistent fatigue, but those who exercise regularly see a drop in those numbers.
4. Keep a regular eating schedule
Many nurses will forego a meal in the name of helping a patient. When that happens the body is without needed nutrients that provide energy to perform the duties throughout the workday. Keeping to eating on a regular schedule ensures nurses are able to stay energized for the entirety of their shifts.
5. Stay hydrated
The tried and true method of staying energized and healthy is by staying hydrated. This also includes not consuming too much caffeine as that can lead to dehydration and eventually symptoms of fatigue.
6. Maintain an active social life
Visiting with friends and family can lead to better feelings. They can lend advice, commentary, and general feel-good statements that can make the feelings of fatigue less. Maintaining an active social life can also stop nurses from feeling isolated and more upset than before.
7. Avoid medication that causes drowsiness
Medications such as Benadryl, Unisom, and nay “nighttime” medication can cause added fatigue since they are meant to induce sleep and the effects may last several hours.
8. Take breaks and lunch in quiet areas
Hospitals are a place of constant noise, talking, and endless responsibilities. After spending several hours in the thick of the commotion it can be overwhelming and lead to a feeling of fatigue. Taking breaks throughout the day in quiet areas gives nurses time to calm their minds and reset for the rest of their shifts.
9. Take time off to recharge
Nursing professionals have a lot on their plates, including wanting to be present as much as possible to offer a helping hand. Being around too much can lead to burnout, and they can experience fatigue. By taking time off to recharge, nurses are able to return to work fresh and avoid compassion fatigue.
10. Set boundaries
With being a nurse comes a myriad of patients, families of patients, and other coworkers. Boundaries should be set to make sure nurses don’t get overwhelmed by all of the people they have to interact with in a day and keep them energized throughout their careers.
11. Therapy for additional tips
While the above tips work great, having a professional help work through everything and help with the feelings of mental health and fatigue can do wonders. Therapy can give additional tips and tricks to fight off fatigue and help handle the high-stress nature of the healthcare environment.
Things hospitals can do:
1. Create work schedules that avoid 12-hour shifts
One of the best ways to avoid nurse fatigue is by avoiding 12-hour shifts as much as possible. The long hours can over-exhaust the mind and hurt nurses' morale. It has been found that nurses working 12-hour shifts experienced worse fatigue than those working 8-hour shifts. Only using 12-hour shifts when completely unavoidable is the best route for hospitals to follow.
2. Schedule staff meetings to avoid super late or early times
Avoiding super early or super late times for staff meetings ensures all shifts of nurses can be present without having to disrupt their sleep schedules, and keep them from feeling fatigued.
3. Include nurses in policy decisions
Policies that are implemented throughout the hospital directly affect nurses. By including them in policy decisions they can help determine if the policy will negatively impact their operations.
4. Implement support programs
Experiencing fatigue can be scary for nurses, especially if they think they’re the only ones feeling it. Implementing support programs can show nurses they’re not alone and give them additional ways to reduce their feelings of fatigue.
5. Limit the number of days nurses can work in a row
It can be tempting for nurses to accept every shift that becomes available, but overworking can quickly lead to fatigue. Limiting the number of days a nurse can work without a break can regulate the hours they’re working to keep them from burnout.
6. Provide education on what fatigue is and the signs
Some nurses may not be completely aware of what fatigue entails. Providing ample education that shows the warning signs, can help nurses catch fatigue at the start and properly reduce it before it becomes too much.
7. Use ergonomically designed equipment
Nurses are constantly having to bend and twist in order to perform their job duties. These movements can lead to added stress on the body, and eventually fatigue. Employing ergonomically designed equipment, such as medical computer carts, can alleviate pain and keep clinicians comfortable during their workday. Less pain felt by nurses means reduced chances of experiencing fatigue.
While fatigue may not be 100% avoidable in hospitals, following the tips above can help reduce it and keep nurses happy while they’re working. Changing processes and using computer carts with height adjustments can transform the way nurses work and stop fatigue. After all, happy nurses mean happy patients.