Study will explore naps for night shift nurses

Research will monitor sleep-wake patterns to find ways to manage fatigue and boost well-being

Research will monitor sleep-wake patterns to find ways to manage fatigue and boost well-being

Power naps and other breaks could be built into nurses’ night shifts to combat tiredness, as part of a new study aiming to help healthcare staff manage fatigue.

Charity the Health Foundation has awarded £56,000 to Northumbria University in Newcastle and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) to research new ways to support staff working night shifts. 

Explore and test staff fatigue

Many night shift staff report that fatigue affects how well they are able to do their job, as well as their physical and psychological health and well-being. 

Researchers will work with nurses, midwives, doctors, operating department practitioners and healthcare assistants on a labour ward at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle to explore and test ways to manage their sleep and fatigue during night shifts.

For the study, staff will be provided with:

  • Wearable activity monitors. 
  • An app to help monitor their sleep-wake patterns and predict how fatigue will affect them over the following 20 hours. 
  • Opportunities to take part in focus groups, interviews and well-being questionnaires.

NUTH project lead and consultant anaesthetist Nancy Redfern said: 'We hope that by using ideas from the whole team of midwives, nurses and doctors that we can develop a way of managing their night shift fatigue in a way that genuinely improves staff well-being and morale.'

Improve decision-making

Research team lead Alison Steven, reader in health professions education in the department of nursing, midwifery and health at Northumbria University, said: 'We hope that this approach may improve decision-making, the management of emergencies, patient and staff safety and staff morale.’

NUTH sleep expert Kirstie Anderson said tiredness affects everyone’s performance and could impact quality of care and patient safety.

‘Our vigilance becomes more variable – we may be less good at logical reasoning, less empathetic and more prone to make errors,’ Dr Anderson said.

‘Other safety critical industries such as airlines, nuclear and petrochemical companies have formal fatigue risk management strategies – we need them in healthcare as well.’

The project will run for 15 months.

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