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Top Tips To Avoid Nursing Fatigue

Top Tips To Avoid Nursing Fatigue

Nursing has plenty of benefits, but it is also one of the most stressful healthcare occupations around. Nursing fatigue can arise from the stress of being a nurse. We have compiled a list of the top tips to avoid nursing fatigue.

What is Nursing Fatigue?

Nursing fatigue is the general fatigue that one can experience during a nursing shift, or over the course of several shifts. Nursing fatigue is also commonly referred to as nursing burnout, as nurses generally get burned out of going to work every day.

Nursing fatigue is a common issue for nurses, as the stress of dealing with patients and long shifts can lead to stress buildup over time.

Combating nursing fatigue is important to maintain happiness as a nurse over time, as part of the job is dealing with both the stress of dealing with patients, and personal stressors that build up over time.

Nursing Fatigue Is Growing Each Day

A survey by Kronis Incorporated highlight just how prevalent nursing fatigue is, as their survey indicated some alarming data.

According to the survey, 98% of nurses say that their job is physically and mentally demanding. 80% of nurses say that they find it difficult to balance their body, mind, and spirit by the end of a day’s work.

Roughly 85% of nurses surveyed stated their work caused them to feel fatigued overall, and it has affected them in other areas outside of work. Some of these other areas include driving home, or spending time with family.

Roughly 28% of nurses surveyed have even called in sick to work just to get some more time off so that they can recharge and rebuild themselves for the future workload that they might be under.

Of those surveyed, roughly 63% stated that they feel their job has caused them to get burned out of the profession, and roughly 90% have stated that they consider other places of employment to get a better work/life balance.

These are alarming statistics from the survey, and understanding the problems associated with nursing fatigue is critical to reducing exposure to it.

What Does Nursing Fatigue Feel Like?

nurse feeling drowsy - Top Tips To Avoid Nursing Fatigue

One of the key things in determining whether or not you have nursing fatigue is knowing what the symptoms and signs of fatigue are. If you know what the symptoms are, then you can take steps to reduce exposure to the things that add up to fatigue over time.

Nursing fatigue generally feels like mental or physical exhaustion over time. This mental or physical exhaustion creates the feeling that individuals are unable to function normally.

The problem with fatigue or burnout, is that sometimes there aren’t physical signs. Many experienced nurses feel nursing fatigue from the mental aspects of the job. Nurses will feel tired or drowsy on the job, which can ultimately lead to performance issues as the fatigue builds up over time.

Nursing fatigue can build up over time, and the older individuals get, the easier it is to experience the symptoms that lead to nursing fatigue - as our energy levels weaken over time to combat the symptoms of nursing fatigue.

Some Of The Common Symptoms Of Nursing Fatigue

One common symptom that nurses experience when nursing fatigue is building up is lack of sleep. Over time, the stress from work can build up and affect the amount of sleep that one gets.

A lack of sleep can arise from waking up in the middle of the night due to thoughts of the stressful interactions that might arise from the challenges incurred over the next day, or being unable to fall asleep when lying down due to stressors that occurred during that day.

Another common symptom of nursing fatigue can include learning or recall errors. These types of symptoms occur when individuals have difficulty learning new tasks, or recalling information about things they were told or taught in the past.

Another common symptom might be behavioral or judgemental lapses. These lapses occur when individuals can act in ways they didn’t intend to, or make judgements without thinking of all the consequences of their actions.

Some nursing fatigue symptoms aren’t just mental, as we mentioned some can be physical as well. Some of the physical symptoms that might arise are a direct result of the reaction we have to mental stressors, while others could also be built up over time due to the effects of working the stressful nature that arises from being a nurse.

In addition, another mental sign of mental fatigue can include an inability to empathize in certain situations.

Some of these physical symptoms that might arise are generally feeling tired throughout the day, digestive complaints, digestive changes, an inability to convey empathy, or properly work with teammates or coworkers.

There are some additional concerns that can arise in those who experience physical fatigue which have serious health consequences.

Some of the health consequences that can arise are increased risk of stomach ulcers, an increased risk of miscarriage, and a higher occurrence of premature births.

According to WebMD, those who experience stress can also experience the following health concerns: heart disease, asthma, increased risk of obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression, alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging, and premature death.

In other words, avoiding nursing fatigue is critically important to your well-being, and job satisfaction.

Why Nursing Fatigue Is Dangerous

There are plenty of reasons that nursing fatigue is dangerous, but there is one particular reason that makes it especially dangerous for nurses - patients rely on nurses.

Nursing fatigue is dangerous in many regards. There are both mental and physical symptoms that can arise, in addition to serious health concerns over time. One unique element of fatigue that is unique to nurses is that the fatigue and burnout nurses can experience can directly affect the health of their patients and those around them.

As they are tasked with caring for others, nurses have an incredible amount of responsibility placed upon their shoulders. Nursing fatigue can lead to lapses in judgement, which then ultimately has a potential to impact patients under the nurse’s supervision.

In addition, nursing fatigue can be dangerous for coworkers. For those nurses who need to drop a shift to deal with their own personal issues, other nurses can be asked to pick up the shift or add onto their existing schedule.

This added pressure can then lead them to have a bigger buildup of their own stressors and fatigue and wear them down over time.

Another reason that nursing fatigue is dangerous is that it can often lead to losing interest in the nursing profession itself. Nursing requires a positive attitude, and over time as the fatigue builds up, nurses can question whether they want to continue on down the same professional pathway.

As nurses are increasingly in high demand each year, losing nurses due to burnout can be avoided by recognizing the symptoms of nursing fatigue, and recognizing why nursing fatigue is dangerous.

The healthcare industry needs as many experienced nurses as possible to help lead the next wave of care, and losing nurses due to nursing fatigue is dangerous for the healthcare industry overall, as the quality of care will suffer for patients.

The last thing hospitals and healthcare clinics want is to have patients complain about their quality of care, because that hurts potential revenues moving forward as patients seek care elsewhere when they need it.

Understanding why nursing fatigue can be dangerous is critical to understanding why knowing tips to avoid nursing fatigue is important.

How Nursing Fatigue Affects Performance

Nursing fatigue can bleed into a professional setting with ease, as nurses can get so worn out their guard is lowered and their productivity suffers.

Nurses need to keep a positive attitude and high level of energy, as each patient requires their own unique set of challenges and problem-solving techniques to provide the best care.

When someone is dealing with nursing fatigue, the amount of care they provide to patients decreases as they are just too tired to go the extra mile to ensure their patient is getting the best care possible.

Some examples of patient care suffering include slow reaction times to questions, slowed response times to critical procedures, errors of omission, lapses in attention to detail, and compromised problem-solving.

The last thing nurses want to do is accidentally provide the wrong info on critical documentation that is required when providing care to patients.

As so much of providing the best care available requires proper documentation, a lack of attention to detail as a result of nursing fatigue can drastically change how and what type of care a patient might receive.

Nursing fatigue doesn’t just affect patient care performance, it also has the ability to affect team dynamics. So much of the healthcare industry is reliant upon team dynamics, as healthcare clinics and hospital employees work in units.

These units have to function well together to ensure that they provide the best care available to those patients. In the event that a nurse on a team is in a bad mood due to nursing fatigue, or feeling burned out, team dynamics can shift in an unhealthy way.

Tempers can flare, quality of work suffers, and feeling fatigue or burnout can only increase over time if you don’t use some of our tips to avoid nursing fatigue.

What Causes Nursing Fatigue

Nursing fatigue can be caused by several different things. There are both workplace and outside factors that contribute to nursing fatigue Recognizing where nursing fatigue can come from is important in knowing how to avoid falling under its spell.

According to Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, nursing fatigue can arise from inadequate staffing, mandatory overtime, long shifts, patient emergencies, and increased expectations from employers, increased expectations from patients, changes in employer policy and care guidelines, hostile work environments, failing to address personal health issues.

There are plenty of things that add up to reasons for inadequate staffing, and one of the most common in the healthcare industry currently is the nursing shortage.

As the nursing shortage continues to rise, nurses are faced with feeling the burden of working increased hours and working during mandatory break times or asked to take additional shifts.

In the healthcare industry, nurses are asked to pick up 8 to 12 hour shifts, and only work various days throughout the week. In the event that a hospital or nursing team member needs someone to pick up the extra shift, nurses will feel the strain and ultimately lead to becoming sleep deprived.

Another contributing factor to nursing fatigue is changing employer dynamics. Hospitals and employers are constantly coming up with new ways to improve patient care, and require new things from their employees.

These changes force nurses to undergo continual training, or do more with less support.

Employers and hospitals are constantly trying to find ways to do more work, with less expenses on the budget sheet, which can lead to drastic cuts and changes to policies and tools provided to nurses.

These employer mandated changes or procedures make it feel as if a nurse just can’t get ahead or become comfortable in their professional work environment. When that happens, nurses get stressed about additional things when concerns arise that they haven’t one.

Another contributing factor in causing nursing fatigue is the unique demands of each patient under their care.

Each patient and their families will demand different things to ensure their family member or patient is getting the best quality of care possible. In some cases, these patients and/or their family members will ask more than you can provide, and push you to the boundary as a nurse.

While this is something that is difficult to avoid, our tips to avoid nursing fatigue will help steer you down a path that will reduce the amount of exposure to nursing fatigue you have.

Top Tips To Avoid Nursing Fatigue As a Nurse

Now that we recognize what nursing fatigue is, the dangers of nursing fatigue, how nursing fatigue can affect performance, and what causes nursing fatigue we can detail the top tips to avoid nursing fatigue.

There are plenty of great tips available to help ensure that you reduce your exposure to nursing fatigue, and many of them just require simple changes to your daily life with no major hassles.

1.) Get more sleep!

One great method of avoiding nursing fatigue is making sure that you get enough sleep. Staying fully charged and mentally ready for the tasks ahead. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, then there are some ways to get around that as well.

Take some time to prepare yourself for bed a little bit earlier. An hour and a half to an hour ahead. Avoid anything that will occupy your attention and keep you up when you are trying to sleep. Avoid bright lights before going to bed, which means putting your phone down well before heading to bed.

2.) Take your mandatory rest breaks and lunch breaks in quiet areas away from your nursing unit or coworkers

From time to time it can be really helpful to take a step back away and refresh in a quiet area when you are alone.

Doing this will ensure that you have a moment to recharge without having to worry about other people interrupting your breaks - which cause you to go back to work or add additional stress during the time that you are supposed to be briefly recharging.

3.) Try to get on a set schedule or consistent shifts

One of the problems as we mentioned which can lead to feeling burned out as a nurse, or experience nursing fatigue is when your shift schedule as a nurse continually fluctuates.

When your shift schedule fluctuates at work, there is a tendency for that uncertain nature to bleed into your sleep schedule. By maintaining a consistent shift schedule, you can finally start settling down and get into a consistent routine.

4.) Try to get on a shift that you are more comfortable with, or aligns better with your outside responsibilities

If you can get on a set schedule without having to worry about the inconsistent shifts, then make sure that you can attempt to get on a schedule that aligns better with your outside responsibilities.

Sometimes nurses will feel fatigue because they are constantly working when their friends or family are enjoying their social life.

This makes it feel as if you cannot have a social life, and can drain on you over time. Try to talk to your supervisors to coordinate a shift schedule that you are comfortable with, and aligns with your outside responsibilities.

5.) Eat a balanced and healthy diet

One key aspect of making sure that you avoid nursing fatigue is taking care of yourself. And one part of taking care of yourself is making sure that what you put in your body is healthy. Your body will operate on the food you provide it, and in return convert that food into energy to use.

As a result of nursing fatigue, nurses will either skip meals, or begin to eat unhealthy because it’s quick and cheap. The problem with both of these techniques, is that it only exasperates the problem, and can potentially lead to serious health concerns down the road.

To ensure that you have enough energy, and that your body is in a healthy manner, you need to dedicate time to picking healthy meal choices, and eating several consistent meals throughout the day.

6.) Reduce caffeinated products

Another key element of making sure you are getting your body ready for the work day ahead is to cut out unhealthy caffeinated products. Similar to crafting and eating a healthy meal plan, you have to ensure that the liquids you are drinking are going to help contribute to your overall health and well-being.

While there are plenty of products out there that are heavily caffeinated and claim to boost energy, over time those effects wear off as the body becomes used to their effects. This can lead nurses to over-consume them, and risk additional health concerns later on.

Another benefit of reducing the amount of caffeinated products you consume, is that you will help your sleep schedule as well like we mentioned earlier.

Caffeinated products have a tendency of keeping people up late at night, and reducing them will help ensure that you feel better throughout the day by getting more sleep.

7.) Educate coworkers about nursing fatigue signs

As we’ve mentioned earlier, nurses have to work in team units. This means that when one nurse isn’t feeling well or performing up to standards, the other nurses are expected to pick up the slack and cover for them.

One way you can avoid the workload or at least partially reduce the stress load is by informing your coworkers about the dangers of nursing fatigue and how to relieve it.

When you educate your coworkers and team members about what can be done to eliminate stress as part of a team, then you can focus on your own personal stressors.

8.) Talk with your employers and managers about concerns

Another great tip to avoid nursing fatigue is talking to your employers or managers about your concerns. Many times employers and managers have their own concerns, and are oftentimes too concerned with their own problems with their responsibilities to worry about others under their direction.

While this isn’t the best practice for employers or managers to behave in this way, it can happen from time to time.

Bringing up some of your concerns to them is a great way to express how you’re feeling, what ideas you have that might help alleviate some nursing fatigue struggles, and get some direction as to how you and your managers can work together to alleviate stressors moving forward.

9.) Talk with your employers and managers about tools you need to succeed

Similar to talking with your employers and hiring managers about some of the concerns you have, you can also talk to them about some of the tools that you need to succeed.

Even though hospitals and healthcare clinics are trying to do their best to reduce expenses on operating budgets, they will still provide the tools needed to succeed and provide the best care to patients.

These same tools will help make your job a little bit easier, and it’s up to you and your peers to mention those comments to your employers and managers.

If you approach them to let them know that the tools you currently have aren’t sufficient enough, and are leading to you and your teammates feeling nursing fatigue, they will surely listen to you.

10.) Make an effort to settle your work/life balance

One leading cause of feeling fatigue as a nurse is the work/life balance act. If you feel that this element is causing you to feel nursing fatigue, then you need to make an effort to figure out why you feel that way and take steps to align the balance better.

Some great ways of helping alleviate the work/life balance struggles include making sure that you are healthy, receive needed medical care, engage in some of your favorite personal hobbies, develop new hobbies, and socialize with friends and family.

Oftentimes our work/life balance can struggle when we feel that our work life is bleeding over to our personal life, and we need to ensure that they are separate to maintain occupational happiness and keep our work energy high.

If you're interested in reviewing some nursing positions that are low stress, go look at our article on the 13 Least Stressful Nursing Jobs!

How Organizations Can Help Avoid Nursing Fatigue

There are plenty of ways that organizations can help avoid nursing fatigue. Avoid nursing fatigue is both an individual responsibility, and an organizational responsibility.

Ensuring that nurses don’t feel burned out or experience nursing fatigue is critical to reducing turnover, which can exacerbate the problem. Organizations have a responsibility of ensuring that they listen to their nurses, and provide them with the tools and training to avoid nursing fatigue.

Hospitals and organizations need to make a commitment to helping nurses succeed, and that starts with communicating with nurses. Helping solve nursing fatigue is a collaborative process, and there need to be safeguards in place on both sides to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Some steps that need to be taken to help ensure nursing fatigue is avoided is assessing nursing fatigue risks, developing a training and education plan, seeking staff and nursing voices for concerns and questions, effective management plans, and monitoring and reporting plans.

Each hospital and healthcare clinic need to review their nursing staff to determine what kind of nursing fatigue risks are they placing on their nurses. There are plenty of questions that need to be answered, such as: “what are our staffing guidelines like?”, “what is our policy on off-shift hours?”, “how often do we rotate shifts around?” etc.

Finding the answer to these questions will ensure that you are aware of some of the potential nursing staffing risks.

From there, you need to determine if you have a training or education program for upcoming policy changes or nursing fatigue risks. If so, are you asking too much of your employees too quickly with these educational programs, or are you not training them properly which can lead to them feeling stressed and ultimately feel burned out?

What measures do you have in place to educate your nursing staff about nursing fatigue and ways to combat it? If you have a place in plan, are your nurses aware and actively taking steps to reduce their own nursing fatigue?

When was the last time you held an open-invite or actively encouraged subordinate nurses to speak up on some of their concerns, and then implemented some changes to accommodate their concerns?

As an employer or manager, seeking the valued feedback of those nursing subordinates is critical to ensuring your facility’s success and reducing nursing fatigue.

The next thing you can do to alleviate nursing fatigue as a hospital or healthcare organization is to ensure that there are proper monitoring and reporting measures to ensure that someone doesn’t overwork, or receives attention when they might start feeling fatigued.

These are just a few of the ways organizations and hospitals can help nurses avoid nursing fatigue, but it all starts with a collaboration and critical questions that need to be answered.


Nursing is one of the greatest healthcare occupations available, but it can also lead to significant nursing fatigue when stressors aren’t identified and taken care of when they start to become an issue.

Through the use of these top tips to avoid nursing fatigue and a collaborative effort between employee and employer, nursing fatigue can steadily be reduced over time. 

For more information on what a nurse does, and registered nurse career salary projections, feel free to look at our nursing guides!