Survey: Canadian nurses report near-constant fatigue at work

Fifty-five percent of the 7,000 registered nurses surveyed across all types of healthcare settings in Canada are almost always tired while on the job, according to a research report prepared by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO). In addition to depleting their physical energy levels, nurses said fatigue interfered with their judgment and decision-making, leading both the CNA and RNAO to call upon governments, healthcare organizations, nursing associations, regulatory bodies, unions, educators and nurses themselves to take action.

While the study didn't measure the direct impact on patient safety, recent U.S. studies have demonstrated the link between errors and frequently interrupted nurses caring for too many patients at once.

As the Canadian research identified relentless and excessive workloads, ongoing staffing issues and sicker patients as the key reasons for their fatigue, report authors made the following recommendations:

  • Ensure governments at all levels provide adequate funding to increase the number of RNs to ensure safe care for all patients, in particular, sicker, complex or unstable patients
  • Require organizations to make public their annual overtime, absenteeism and disability statistics
  • Support nurses to assume more responsibility for mitigating and managing fatigue while at work, including using professional approaches to decline additional work assignments

"Although those in the profession know the risks of working when fatigued, many tend to pay more attention to the needs of their patients and colleagues than to their own," RNAO president David McNeil said. "Change at the system and organizational levels are urgently needed to mitigate and manage fatigue in the nursing profession."

To learn more:
- read the executive summary from the CNA
- read this press release