As a rule, nurses love their jobs. Despite the demanding, fast-paced environment, many nurses enjoy their career because they get to make a difference, positively impact patients’ lives and help people through vulnerable moments.
But it’s hard to dispute that nurses are among the hardest-working hospital employees. Many nurses are on their feet for long, 12-hour shifts, and they often find themselves working overtime or have difficulty clocking out when their shift is officially over. The hectic environment can also lead some nurses to feel stressed or overwhelmed. And while nurses experience wonderful moments everyday—babies being born, patients making recoveries and families rejoicing over positive outcomes—they also face daily exposure to sick or dying patients and have little time to grieve or decompress before having to care for the next patient.
It should come as no surprise that many nurses are experiencing fatigue and burnout. According to a May 2017 survey titled “Employee Engagement in Nursing” by Kronos Incorporated, 98 percent of the nurses surveyed said that their work is both physically and mentally exhausting. This overwhelming fatigue poses dangers: Fifty-six percent of all nurses surveyed said they have driven home from work feeling drowsy, and 23 percent of night-shift nurses have pulled their car off the road to rest, according to the survey.
But it isn’t only nurses who are at risk of error or injury: Of those surveyed, 44 percent worry that patient care will suffer because they are so tired, and 37 percent of nurses worry about making a mistake. Another 11 percent admitted that they have made mistakes because of exhaustion. So why are nurses so fatigued? Several studies show that a higher number of patients per nurse is associated with an increased risk of burnout. The nurse-to-patient ratio is only one factor in the nurse workload. Longer shifts and working overtime have also been linked to an increased risk of error. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Patient Safety Network, operational or equipment failures may also interfere with nurses’ ability to complete tasks and properly care for patients.
Nurse burnout is expensive, too: The National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare reports that nurse burnout costs hospitals an additional $9 billion annually and $14 billion to the entire healthcare industry at large.
So what can you do to alleviate nurse fatigue and reduce workloads? Try these three ideas.
- Improve staffing levels. Many studies report that the nurse-to-patient ratio is directly related to patient satisfaction. Our next-generation Amplion Alert Care Assurance Platform distributes messages to the right caregiver with the right skillset. A tech will receive a request for coffee instead of the nurse. This messaging communication methodology gives nurses more time to focus on the clinical needs of their patients. Through our analytics reports, Amplion Alert can also provide objective data for task and staff allocation based on the point of care activity data for each room.
- Give nurses tools to support their work. Nurses have to remember everything—from a patient’s personal preferences, such as coffee with sugar, to clinical data, such as what their potassium level is today and how it compares to yesterday. Nurses can have patient workloads of five, six or even nine patients depending on the day and shift. Clinical protocol is to ‘round’ on a patient Q-1 hour. Multiply hourly rounding on nine patients for a 12-hour shift. Keeping track of this protocol, as well as all of the other activities is overwhelming and not easy, therefore leading to stress. Amplion Alert’s advanced messaging functionality helps improve patient safety by reminding nurses when to round or turn patients—eliminating the potential to not routinely address a patient.
- Encourage nurses to rest, employ stress management habits and work toward a healthy lifestyle. Healthy nurses lead to healthy patients. Encourage nurses to take breaks, and provide healthy snacks and drinks for the staff. Amplion Alert also helps reduce stress on nurses in two ways: First, a nurse cannot alone address every patient care need in a day. Amplion provides nurses with the option to communicate their inability to assist a patient. The Amplion Alert system will forward a call for help to the next caregiver in the protocol. This process helps assure the nurse that the patient’s needs are being met and reduces the stress of trying to be everywhere at once. Second, a nurse can take a break by “signing off” during this time with the main Care Traffic Control center. The system provides coverage for the nurse on break by automatically forwarding the patient need to the nurse’s backup. With the Amplion Alert system, nurses can take a break stress-free, without worrying about if their patient is being monitored and their needs are being addressed.