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article imageNursing fatigue threatens patients

By KJ Mullins     May 11, 2010 in Health
Nursing is a demanding job. Due to budget cuts and staffing shortages, nurses are being pushed harder than ever-at a cost to patients, a report states.
A new report from the Canadian Nurses Association(CNA) and the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) warns that workplace changes are needed to ensure patient safety isn't being compromised.
The report, Nurse Fatigue and Patient Safety, surveyed more than 7,000 nurses across the all health care sectors. Over half (55%) of those surveyed reported almost always feeling fatigued during their workday and 80 per cent said that they were always fatigued at the end of their shifts.
Staffing issues, sicker patients and excessive workloads were the key reasons that nurses cited for draining their energy. That fatigue said nurses interferes with their ability to make sound judgments and decisions when it comes to patient care during their high-stressed shifts.
The report recommended that governments at all levels provide adequate funding to
increase the number of RNs to ensure safe care for all patient, in particular, sicker, complex or unstable patients; require organizations to make public annually, their overtime, absenteeism and disability statistics, as part of their Quality Improvement Programs and accountability agreements with funds bodies; and support nurses to assume more responsibility for mitigating and managing fatigue while at work, including using professional approaches to decline additional work assignments.
"Although those in the profession know the risks of working when fatigued, many tend to pay more attention to the needs of their patients and colleagues than to their own," said RNAO president David McNeil in a press release. "Change at the system and organizational levels are urgently needed to mitigate and manage fatigue in the nursing profession."
"Nurse fatigue is just one of the negative consequences that can be linked to Canada's RN shortage," said CNA president Kaaren Neufeld. "The imperative for the Canadian Nurses Association and RNAO in spotlighting this crucial problem and identifying specific solutions is to guard against unsafe patient situations and stop a potential exodus of nurses from the profession, which would further compound patient safety."
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