Fatigued nurses more likely to regret their clinical decisions, study finds

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Nurses who are fatigued are more likely to regret decisions they make on the job, according to a recent study.

Investigators from the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Nursing and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor questioned more than 600 critical care nurses about their sleep routines, levels of fatigue and daytime sleepiness, and clinical decision-making.

Nurses who reported fatigue, sleep loss, daytime sleepiness and insufficient recovery between shifts were more likely to report “decision regret,” the researchers discovered. Decision regret occurs when an expected or hoped-for clinical outcome does not occur, leading clinicians to doubt the choices they made.

While the study focused on critical care nurses, the findings add to a growing body of research showing that managing fatigue is essential in improving patient outcomes and nurses' health, the researchers emphasized. Proper staffing levels and scheduling practices — including break times — are essential, as are support resources to aid clinical decision-making, they wrote.

Findings appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Critical Care. The study was funded in part by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, as well as the Kirkhof College of Nursing at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI.

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