(Winwood et al. 2006). The needs of patients and hospitals put nurses under considerable pressure (Shiau et al. 1999). Many became nurses because of a deep desire to help others, that our contributions through clinical nursing are valuable. This has led to the idea that nurses must be impervious to fatigue. Unfortunately, nurses are human and as humans, we are also imperfect.
The general public has come to view nurses as the provider of comfort while hospitalized. They often do not see this same nurse as one taking care of several patients with various levels of acuity, often on little sleep after working her third day of 12 hours shifts. Night shifts and rotating shift patterns, in particular, have both been associated with increasing fatigue levels and insufficient recovery from work between shifts
(Winwood, 2006). No one would board a plane knowing their pilot had been flying for over 12 hours, why should do we expect this of our nurses? And yet, our culture thinks nothing of the demands placed on nurses with the hours worked and the amount of shifts.
Healthcare has traditionally valued nurses who never call in, who pick up extra shifts when needed, and who never seem to need a break; yet, this valuing allow fatigue and its dangers to permeate the culture (Simmons & Zolnierek, 2010). When confronted with staffing shortages, many nurses are frequently faced with working additional hours or extra shifts, which compounds fatigue. While the Code of Ethics for Nurses (ANA,
2001) states the nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, the Texas State Board of
Nursing goes a step further by stating a nurse must only accept assignments that take into
consideration client safety and are commensurate with the nurse’s physical and emotional abilities (Rule 217.11(1)(T)).
Nursing is often thought of as primarily mentally versus physically demanding work. Mental and physical demands can vary across nursing work environments. Both are more likely present among nurses and are critical for understanding the consequences of fatigue (Baker, L.M. & Nussbaum, M.A. 2010). Being a nurse is demanding work…