Sleep deprivation is a serious problem; it affects not only our overall health, but our ability to make decisions. When a healthcare provider is overly fatigued it can lead to catastrophic results. That is why the American Nurses Association is seeking to create policies to help keep nurses from working long shifts and mandatory overtime, hoping that fewer mistakes will be made if the nurses on duty are more awake and alert.
According to Cincinnati.com, the ANA wants employers such as hospitals to:
- Limit shifts to 12 hours or fewer and workweeks to 40 hours or fewer.
- Eliminate mandatory overtime.
- Keep consecutive night shifts to a minimum for nurses working both days and nights.
- Promote frequent rest breaks and provide sleep rooms or transportation when nurses are too tired to drive.
- Give nurses the right to reject work assignments to prevent fatigue.
Other states have already started addressing the problem of fatigued nursing staff. KentuckyOne Health, which bills itself as “the largest and most comprehensive health system in the Commonwealth,” employs “flex nurses.” These nurses work flexible hours and schedules so that no one works too long or while fatigued.
The dangers of fatigue
The article references a “groundbreaking study in the journal Health Affairs in 2004 looked at 393 nurses over more than 5,300 shifts and found that those who worked shifts 12 1/2 hours or longer were three times more likely than others to make an error in patient care” (emphasis ours). This is not surprising, as sleep deprivation has been linked to impaired brain activity, memory problems, cognitive dysfunction and changes in mood. People who are chronically fatigued may not even have the physical energy to perform their jobs correctly. Cincinnati.com points to a study by the American Journal of Critical Care which claims that “fatigued nurses are more likely than well-rested nurses to make faulty decisions that lead to decision regret, a negative cognitive emotion that occurs when the actual outcome differs from the desired or expected outcome” when it comes to helping victims in critical care situations (emphasis ours).
Learn more about the dangerous effects of fatigue
At Crandall & Pera Law, we applaud the ANA for taking steps to reduce fatigue; it will make both nurses and their patients safer. For more information about what KentuckyOne Health is doing, or to discuss your experiences with sleep-deprived healthcare providers, we invite you to visit our website or contact our Kentucky or Ohio offices.