Professional wellbeing: Effective management of staff fatigue during the night shift

Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust

This project is under way, and will run until March 2020.

  • Project led by the Department of Anaesthesia at Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with Northumbria University Newcastle.
  • Aiming to co-design a fatigue risk management strategy at the Trust to help teams effectively manage night shift fatigue.
  • Will use participatory approach to develop and test interventions, including using wearable technology and an app that has been used to monitor and manage fatigue in other safety-critical settings.

Fatigue affects performance, with studies showing negative impacts on logical reasoning, vigilance, flexibility and empathy. Safety-critical environments such as the airline, nuclear and electrical industries have formal fatigue management systems to mitigate fatigue during and after work. 

In the NHS, fatigue can impact quality of care and patient safety. A survey of UK trainee anaesthetists found that fatigue had negative impacts on their ability to do their job, their physical health and psychological wellbeing. A third do not have access to adequate rest facilities, and many work in a culture where powernaps are not allowed.  

This project will involve an action research, whole team approach to effective management of fatigue in theatre and labour ward teams during the night shift.

The interventions will involve educating night shift workers about the impact of fatigue on work performance, and holding focus groups to explore experiences of fatigue, and suggested ways of mitigating night shift tiredness. Ideas will then be tested out, before the strategy is finalised and implemented.

During the testing, staff will use wearable activity monitors and an app, which will help demonstrate the impact of new processes. The app has been developed by Sleep and Fatigue Research and allows individual monitoring of fatigue, including a prediction of individuals’ tiredness level for the subsequent 20 hours.

This participatory approach and the interventions should improve team working at night, with breaks and powernaps built into the work schedule. This may improve decision-making, the management of emergencies, patient and staff safety, and staff morale. 

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact:

About this programme

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