Scarborough Hospital nurses aim to reduce fatigue

The Scarborough Hospital’s nurses have launched a program addressing fatigue on the job in response to studies by the Canadian Nurses Association that link over-tired nurses to patient safety risks.

Following research in their 2010 report “Taking Action on Nurse Fatigue,” the CNA urged hospitals to develop strategies to manage the problem. They found that tired nurses are more prone to making bad decisions that could affect lead to clinical errors and reduced patient safety.

The same report found that over 55 per cent of 7,000 Canadian nurses polled felt they were “almost always” tired, with 80 per cent saying they felt tired after work.

Some factors of nurse fatigue (CNA Reports)

  • Increasing professional demands and workload due to the changing role of a nurse
  • Greater volume of patients
  • Understaffing in hospitals and general shortage of Registered Nurses in the field
  • More complex and intense treatment methods
  • Increased expectations from patients and their families
  • Lack of functional organization in workspaces

In a similar study, nurses stated that due to nurse fatigue and other workplace concerns, they feel patients are put in potentially dangerous situations.

The Nursing Practice Council at TSH will be organizing discussions, distributing self-assessment questionnaires and providing pamphlets to help nurses better identify and deal with fatigue in themselves and their co-workers.

Led by staff rather than by management, the program aims to empower nurses at an individual level to combat the issue. They hope not only to improve the quality of care for patients, but also the quality of job life for nursing staff.

“I think professionally, literature indicates that for better patient care, with nurses that aren’t fatigued, there’s less personal injury, less patient safety concerns, and less medication errors,” said Tanja Futter, a registered nurse helping to lead the nurse fatigue initiative at TSH.

She explained that the project has two parts, one encouraging “safety huddles” and teamwork on units, and the other focusing on addressing fatigue in the individual.

“It’s really exciting that nurses have come up with the idea and have identified within themselves that this is something that needs to be addressed,” she said. “For our patients at the Scarborough Hospital, having nurses that are aware of fatigue and addressing fatigue within themselves makes a better patient care experience.”

Futter said the initiative is starting with four of the hospital’s wards, and the NPC plans to have all 1,300 nursing staff involved over the course of this year. To her knowledge, TSH’s initiative is the only one of its kind in the Scarborough area.