Stress and lack of adequate rest are significant factors contributing to nursing fatigue. Nurses generally experience repetitive higher stress levels for extended periods, and it is challenging for the body and mind to integrate. It is easy to become mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.
Nurses are incredibly resilient, selfless human beings and work demanding hours. As a nurse, fatigue affects your ability to function, care for your patients, and support your fellow nurses and doctors.
These days it can feel challenging to take care of yourself and take time off, but it is an absolute necessity. Both the hospital administration and the nurses need to ensure that fatigue levels are being managed, address the root causes, and offer support to ensure nurses have the resources they need to keep from falling into the pit of nursing fatigue.
What Are The Symptoms Of Nursing Fatigue?
Fatigue and sleepiness are not the same things. Persistent fatigue can lead to more significant problems as a nurse, and it can jeopardize the patient’s safety and put you and your employer at risk.
Symptoms of nursing fatigue include:
- Becoming more likely to make medication errors or errors in general
- Struggling with slower reaction time
- Errors or omissions
- The inability to convey empathy and compassion
- Failure to rescue
- Poor-quality patient care
- A lack of attention to detail
- Higher irritability and poor teamwork
As you can see, nursing fatigue can create dangerous situations for your patients, coworkers, and yourself.
What Causes Nursing Fatigue?
Inadequate sleep, being overworked, and stress are the leading causes of nursing fatigue. Sleep patterns are often erratic due to the work schedules, and it can be challenging to develop healthy sleep practices.
7 Key Steps To Help Prevent Nursing Fatigue
As a nurse, you will likely experience nursing fatigue at some point. Unfortunately, it is widespread due to most clinics and hospitals being understaffed, which results in nurses working longer shifts and often having more patients than they can handle and still giving optimal care. Here are seven things you can do to help yourself reduce and relieve nursing fatigue.
Step #1: Leave Work At Work
As challenging as it may sometimes be, it is essential to mentally leave work behind as you walk out the door to head home. Leaving work behind when you clock out will help you avoid compassion fatigue from repeated exposure to patient suffering and working in a high-stress environment.
Step #2: Practice Daily Self-Care
While it may feel challenging to take care of yourself after a long day of patient care, self-care is essential. Doing something for yourself that will help rejuvenate and relax your body and mind, like going for a walk in nature, daily meditation, hiring a house cleaner or meal service, journaling, or some form of art, can make a huge difference for you.
Sometimes it is about not doing something, such as minimizing screen time and avoiding unnecessary anxiety. Choose stress-relieving activities instead.
If you feel guilty about taking care of yourself, try combining your care with work-related or family-related. For example, a new pair of nursing shoes or a special family outing makes everyone happy.
Step #3: Get Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep is a significant contributor to nursing fatigue. When your shifts are lengthy and often demanding, making the need for uninterrupted sleep critical so that your body and mind are well-rested and able to recuperate.
If you are someone who can take a power nap during breaks, it is a great idea. Prioritize sleep over errands and chores. We all can be at our best when we have the rest we need.
Step #4: Use Your Vacation Time
Take time off and use your vacation days. Time off will help you refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body, and emotions. Whether you go away or plan a staycation relaxing at home, taking time to recharge your batteries is essential.
Step #5: Specialize In An Area You Love
You can specialize in nursing and work in an area you are passionate about, whether with babies, children, the ER, cardiac care, or one of the hundreds of options of nursing specialties. Do what you love, and loving what you do can help prevent nursing fatigue.
Step #6: Changing Your Work Environment When Necessary
Sometimes a change in environment is necessary, especially if where you are working has a poor nurse-to-patient ratio or a lack of support for nurses.
Nurses are in high demand, and you must find the best fit for you. Explore different hospitals, clinics, or private nursing opportunities till you discover one that makes you happy.
Step #7: Develop A Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle's key factors include healthy eating, drinking plenty of water, and exercise.
Eat healthy, nutritious meals. While fast food or junk food may be quick and easy when you are tired, the lack of nutrition long-term has harmful effects on your body and mind. Unhealthy foods lack the nutrition to feed your body, making you feel even more tired and sluggish.
Meal prep and planning or a meal delivery service can make eating healthy and nourishing meals.
- Hydration is critical. Even mild dehydration can affect you physically and cognitively, leading to a greater risk of headaches, nursing fatigue, and more. Everyone's water needs may differ, but women generally need 2.7 liters, and men need 3.7 liters.
- Exercise. It will reduce stress and keep your body healthy. Take a walk or kayak, or bike ride. You will have more energy and feel happier after incorporating movement and exercise into your life.
As a nurse, the most important person you can care for is yourself.