Worker fatigue and its direct impact on patient safety

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

July 9, 2014


Research shows that a tired workforce leads to poor patient care, although many facilities have yet to embrace the importance of this issue.

A recent webinar with Ann Scott Blouin, RN, PhD, FACHE, executive vice president of customer relations at The Joint Commission, discussed safety implications associated with fatigue and addressing ways in which hospitals can confront this problem in their own facility.

Blouin noted that worker fatigue can be a difficult and often uncomfortable issue to address, particularly when it comes to confronting a colleague or employee who may be struggling with fatigue. However, she said some hospitals throughout the United States are addressing this issue through their fitness for duty policies, which typically focus on workers that may be coming to work under the influence of certain drugs or alcohol.

Research shows that both shift length and nurse-patient ratios can contribute to fatigue and can also negatively impact patient safety. Among the findings:

 ·       A study published in the November 2012 issue of Health Affairs shows that as the proportion of hospital nurses working shifts of more than 13 hours increased, patients' dissatisfaction with care increased as well. Nurses working 10.5 hours or more were 2.5 times as likely to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction and leave their job.

·       A study published in the April/June 2013 issue of the Journal of Nursing Care Quality found that extended shifts were associated with greater odds of reporting poor quality and safety. Although the majority of nurses reported working 12 to 13 hours shifts, longer shift length correlated with an increased likelihood that nurses reported poor hospital safety grades or quality care.



This is an excerpt from an article in Patient Safety Monitor Journal.

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