These tips for combatting nurse fatigue come from Bette McNee, health and human services technical specialist with The Graham Company, a healthcare consulting firm in Philadelphia, PA:
• Consider not having 12-hour shifts. Try 12-hour days with two six-hour shifts through the night to break up the work, or at least schedule the 12-hour shift in the daytime.
• Consider your timing. Don’t have staff meetings at 7:30 a.m. Don’t schedule meetings or parties after long shifts, forcing your staff to stay awake longer than they should.
• Create staffing thresholds. Allow no more than two consecutive 12-hour shifts and no more than four or five days straight without a day off. Weekly overtime hours should be allowed sparingly.
• Consider four-hour block staffing. Pool and per diem staff might be more amenable to multiple four-hour shifts instead of fewer eight-hour shifts. Similarly, staff members might prefer taking two four-hour holiday breaks rather than one day off.
• Share health promotion and wellness education materials. Nurses, and particularly nurse managers, can’t correct fatigue-inducing habits if they don’t realize the connection. Provide your nurses with materials that help them learn and implement good sleep and holiday stress practices.
• Create rest spots. This rest spot doesn’t have to be a room complete with beds and pillows. You can make a difference by providing a quiet, comfortable area where nursing staff members can take a 15- or 20-minute power nap to recharge mental alertness for the remainder of their shifts.
• Serve free coffee. The traditional pick-me-up does work to improve alertness, so free coffee is a small way to make a significant improvement.
• Encourage exercise. A few minutes on a treadmill or exercise bike can increase alertness and attention.