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Nurses should take 20-minute power naps when working nights, says a leading researcher on workplace fatigue.
Nursing Standard. 37, 7, 7-7. doi: 10.7748/ns.37.7.7.s5
Published: 06 July 2022
Consultant anaesthetist Nancy Redfern, who has spearheaded research into fatigue among healthcare professionals, said these measures were vital to help keep nurses and their patients safe.
Speaking at this year’s Euroanaesthesia conference, she called for a new approach to night shifts and efforts to manage the risks of tiredness among healthcare staff.
‘Those working night shifts must ensure everyone gets a power nap and that we support each other to remain safe and vigilant when working through the night,’ said Dr Redfern, who works for Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
‘Staffing schedules should allow sufficient time between shifts for proper rest and no one should do more than three night shifts in a row.’
Dr Redfern said short power naps could help prevent uncontrolled ‘sleep lapses’ that make it dangerous to drive home when tired. She also warned that tiredness could harm patient care.
A Nursing Standard survey in 2019 found one in four nurses reported having a car accident or near-miss when driving home tired after work. Of the 1,955 nurses who said they drove to work, three quarters reported feeling tired or drowsy on the journey home.
But nurses have said taking a nap at work is not always feasible. Responding on Nursing Standard’s Facebook page, one nurse said: ‘A lot of NHS trusts don’t like you sleeping on night shifts. We were threatened with our jobs if we slept on our breaks on my last ward. We had managers come round and check.’
Others pointed out many wards are understaffed at night, making it impossible to take breaks, or that they do not have adequate break room facilities for a nap.