Doctors need to take naps during night shifts to avoid accidents on the way home, expert says



Expert calls for fatigue risk management to become standard in the NHS as half of trainee doctors, consultants and nurses have had an accident or near-miss on their way home from a night shift

Doctors and nurses working nights should take power naps, expert says (Stock Photo)

According to a study, doctors and nurses should be allowed to take 20-minute naps while working at night to avoid crashing on the way home.

Half of the physician, consultant and nurse trainees had an accident or near-miss on their way home from a night shift.

An expert calls for fatigue risk management to become the norm in the NHS, as it is in the airline industry.

But a nurses’ union fears needed breaks for already exhausted nurses are not happening due to understaffing.

Research shows that driving after being awake for 20 hours when the body needs sleep the most, at night or very early in the morning, is as risky as drinking and driving.

Studies have shown that being awake from 4 to 6 p.m. affects doctors’ ability to interact with patients and colleagues and those who return home after a 12-hour shift are twice as likely to be awake. crush than those who work eight-hour shifts.

Dr. Nancy Redfern says power naps are vital

Experts have also found that two or more nights of restricted sleep create a sleep debt that requires at least two nights of sleep to recover from. Dr Nancy Redfern, of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said an early night nap meant staff were much less likely to have a microsleep, switching off for a few seconds and heading home.

She said: ‘When fatigue sets in, we in the medical and care team are less empathetic with patients and colleagues, alertness becomes more variable and logical reasoning is affected making it difficult to calculate. , for example, correct doses of medication. patient needs.

“We have trouble thinking flexibly or retaining new information, which makes it difficult to manage rapidly evolving emergencies. Our mood deteriorates, so our teamwork suffers. Therefore, everything that ensures our safety and that of our patients is affected.

According to the expert, it is important that nurses and doctors have time to rest so that they can concentrate on work and be safe on the way home.


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Dr Redfern, presenting data at the Euroanaesthesia Congress in Milan, Italy, said there is currently no fatigue risk management in the NHS.

Pat Cullen, from the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Regular breaks that allow nursing staff to rest, rehydrate and refuel are an essential part of staying alert in order to provide safe and effective patient care. . Unfortunately, with tens of thousands of vacancies for nurses in health and social care across the UK, this is not the reality for nurses who are already stretched thin.

“Without a fully funded workforce plan, nurses will continue to leave non-stop shifts exhausted. Rest and recovery for healthcare workers must be at the heart of decision-making on patient safety in the workplace.

An NHS spokesperson said: “We expect trusts to support staff, including ensuring they have a quiet space for breaks when needed, so they can carry on. to provide high quality care.”

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