Managing Fatigue During Times of Crisis: Guidance for Nurses, Managers, Other Healthcare Workers

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP 
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

“At times of crisis, healthcare workers (e.g., nurses, advanced practice nurses, physicians, nursing assistants, etc.) continue to provide care, despite ever challenging work demands, including higher influx of critically ill patients, increased work stress, and a frequent need for overtime. These work demands can compound already challenging work schedules (i.e., 12-hour shifts, night shifts), making it more difficult to obtain regular shift breaks and enough time off between shifts for adequate recovery. All of these work factors (i.e., physical, emotional, and/or mental demands) combined with insufficient sleep, contribute to fatigue.

Healthcare workers experiencing fatigue can jeopardize their own health and safety, such as increasing their susceptibility to infectious diseases, needlesticks, work-related muscle injuries, and burnout, as well as committing patient care errors. Nurses providing care during disasters or emerging disease epidemics have reported sleeping less, experiencing intense levels of fatigue, decreased well-being, and depression.

It can be difficult to step away when the healthcare system is flooded with people needing care. During these periods, fatigue among healthcare workers may be impossible to avoid. So how can employers and healthcare workers balance the high demands for health care with the need to protect workers from fatigue? Workers and managers must actively share the responsibility to control the risks of injuries and incidents associated with fatigue through personal and workplace strategies, as well as a fatigue risk management system.”

The above statements are the opening remarks on a CDC/NIOSH landing page that addresses Managing Fatigue During Times of Crisis: Guidance for Nurses, Managers and Other Healthcare Workers.  This site highlights valuable tips and resources from April 2020 in addition to updates in April 2021. 2021 continues to be a rinse and repeat type of year as was 2020, and 2022 will likely bring the same challenges to clinicians. I’m highlighting this website for all clinicians who may have forgotten or chosen not to provide for their own needs during this pandemic. You can’t help others if you’re running on fumes! Take the time to review these tips and share them with your colleagues. You are so worth it!!!

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