A study has confirmed the consequences for care of exhaustion among nursing staff, finding that fatigued critical care nurses were more likely to express concern they had made a wrong decision.
The study, published in the American Journal of Critical Care, found nurses suffering from a lack of sleep were more likely to regret clinical decisions than those who felt well-rested.
Researchers surveyed 605 intensive care nurses and found those who regretted decisions reported higher levels of fatigue, more daytime sleepiness and poor recovery between shifts than other nurses.
Decision regret was also more common among those who worked 12-hour shifts. Differing shift lengths in the health service have become the subject of much debate in recent years and are due to be reviewed by the chief nursing officer’s department at NHS England.
The US study authors said the link they identified between nurse fatigue and decision regret added to the body of evidence in support of the need for appropriate staffing levels.
“Fatigued and sleep-deprived critical care nurses put their patients and themselves at serious risk,” said lead author Linda Scott, associate professor at the University of Illinois.
She said it was vital managers recognised the impact of fatigue on performance and patients’ welfare and took steps to minimise the risks, such as providing enough cover and ensuring proper break times.
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