A new approach is needed by employers to tackle the risks of tiredness among healthcare staff.
Nursing and medical staff should take 20-minute “power naps” during night shifts to improve patient safety.
The leading researcher on workplace fatigue, Consultant anaesthetist Dr Nancy Redfern has called for a new approach by employers to tackle the risks of tiredness among healthcare staff.
A poll undertaken by NursingNotesin 2019 revealed that most NHS employers (76%) forbid nursing staff from taking sleep breaks overnight.
Remaining safe and vigilant.
Speaking at the Euroanaesthesia conference, Dr Redfern explained, “Those working night shifts must ensure everyone gets a power nap and that we support each other to remain safe and vigilant when working through the night”.
“When fatigue sets in, we in the medical and nursing team are less empathic with patients and colleagues, vigilance becomes more variable, and logical reasoning is affected, making it hard to calculate, for example, the correct doses of drugs a patient needs,” explains Dr Redfern.
Are you allowed to nap on nights?
Yes - officially 13%, 187 votes
187 votes - 13% of all votes
Yes - unofficially 39%, 548 votes
548 votes - 39% of all votes
No 47%, 663 votes
663 votes - 47% of all votes
Total Votes: 1398
14 June 2022
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“We find it hard to think flexibility, or to retain new information which make it difficult to manage quickly changing emergency situations. Our mood gets worse, so our teamwork suffers. Hence, everything that makes us and our patients safe is affected.”
Alongside improving patient safety, research suggests that around half of healthcare workers have experienced an accident or near-miss when driving home after a night shift.
No more than three consecutive night shifts.
In addition to 20-minute power naps, Dr Redfern believes a limit of three consecutive night shifts would improve safety for patients and staff.
Dr Redfern explains, “We need to change the way we manage night shifts to mitigate the effects of fatigue. Those working shifts must ensure everyone gets a power nap, and that we support each other to remain safe and vigilant when we work through the night.
“Staffing schedules should allow sufficient time between shifts for proper rest, and no-one should do more than 3 night shifts in a row.”