Fatigue in Nursing: What is it and how can it be prevented?

Nursing can be an incredibly rewarding and meaningful career, but demanding work schedules, long shifts and inadequate rest mean that nurses have a high risk of suffering from fatigue. A strategy combining education and prevention measures can go a long way to reduce the effects of fatigue in Nursing.

So what is fatigue?

Fatigue is not just feeling tired or sleepy. It is constant and persistent exhaustion, with no relief. Poor sleep quality paired with a highly stressful working environment can lead to fatigue, particularly in the Nursing industry.

Why is it bad?

The impact of fatigue in nurses is widespread. It can result in medical errors, caused by poor focus or inability to concentrate, jeopardising the safety of patients and nurses alike. But another important factor to consider is job satisfaction – running on empty is not sustainable and it’s important to not let yourself get pushed beyond your physical or emotional limits.

How can I spot it, and prevent it?

Fighting the battle against fatigue is easier said than done – but there are measures you can take that will help. Some of this might seem a little obvious, but it’s sometimes hard to practice what you preach when working in a position that prioritises the health of others.

Firstly, keep an eye on your own health. With a duty of care to others, it’s easy to let your own wellbeing take a back seat. If you’re struggling to focus or finding it harder than usual to perform tasks, take some time to review your current situation.

Find your boundaries, and learn what triggers you to feel the initial signs of fatigue. Whether it’s a friend or a colleague, talk to someone. Feeling supported and having your voice heard can provide much needed relief when you’re feeling overwhelmed. There are a number of networks and resources available for nurses, such as NHS Leading ChangeThe Queens Nursing Institute and our own Guidance Page.

Eating well can help to increase energy levels – consider incorporating produce such as grains, pulses and a variety of vegetables in to meals. Alongside a healthy diet, it’s important to stay hydrated and not rely too much on caffeine. Outside of work, try to exercise regularly, even if it’s taking a stroll instead of the bus, doing some stretches at home, or trying a new sport.

Raising awareness and mindfulness of Nurse fatigue is a step in the right direction to eradicating the issue. The consequences are serious, so make sure you look after yourself, so you can in turn look after others.