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The Effects of Fatigue and Sleepiness on Nurse Performance and Patient Safety – Patient Safety and Quality Chapter 40

Although the words “fatigue” and “sleepiness” are often used interchangeably, they are distinct phenomena. Sleepiness refers to a tendency to fall asleep, whereas fatigue refers to an overwhelming sense of tiredness, lack of energy, and a feeling of exhaustion associated with impaired physical and/or cognitive functioning. Sleepiness and fatigue often coexist as a consequence of sleep deprivation.
Even though fatigue can be due to a variety of causes (e.g., illness, a vigorous workout, or a period of prolonged concentration), this chapter will focus on the effects of fatigue associated with insufficient sleep (see Key Terms and Definitions). The impact of extended work shifts and the relationship of these work schedules to nurse and patient safety will also be explored. Several practices that show demonstrable potential for reducing the adverse effects of fatigue on patient safety will be reviewed at the end of the chapter.
Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses.
Hughes RG, editor.
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2008 Apr.

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