Editor's Note: Coping with fatigue
This month in Safety+Health, Associate Editor Sarah Trotto looks at fatigue and the safety and health risk it presents to workers.
Sarah’s article opens with a story from a former night-shift nurse, who speaks about the strategies he employed to try to cope with fatigue. His story made me think about my own recent encounter with a night-shift nurse. Only a few days (and one pain-filled night) after a co-worker and I were discussing how lucky we were never to have been hospitalized, I found myself in an emergency room signing consent forms for an appendectomy.
Everything went well, and my last visitors left my room around 9:30 p.m. Between processing what had just happened to me, and a very patient nurse coming in to check my vital signs and medications (and to turn off an IV pump alarm I set off at least six times by unintentionally keeping my arm bent too long), I didn’t sleep much, so I was awake when the nurse came in with another nurse for a shift change.
During one of the new nurse’s visits, I asked her if she liked working the night shift. She paused for longer than I expected before finally saying, “You get used to it.” As friendly, pleasant and professional as she was, her words weren’t very convincing.
In the weeks following my procedure, my only major issue has been feeling tired all the time. It’s getting better every day, and I’m sure I’ll be up to speed soon. But I can’t help thinking about the workers, including nurses, who contend with fatigue on a regular basis. And I’m glad that researchers and organizations are taking a closer look at what can be done to help.