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The effects of fatigue on performance in simulated nursing work

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Fatigue is associated with increased rates of medical errors and healthcare worker injuries, yet existing research in this sector has not considered multiple dimensions of fatigue simultaneously. This study evaluated hypothesised causal relationships between mental and physical fatigue and performance. High and low levels of mental and physical fatigue were induced in 16 participants during simulated nursing work tasks in a laboratory setting. Task-induced changes in fatigue dimensions were quantified using both subjective and objective measures, as were changes in performance on physical and mental tasks. Completing the simulated work tasks increased total fatigue, mental fatigue and physical fatigue in all experimental conditions. Higher physical fatigue adversely affected measures of physical and mental performance, whereas higher mental fatigue had a positive effect on one measure of mental performance. Overall, these results suggest causal effects between manipulated levels of mental and physical fatigue and task-induced changes in mental and physical performance.

Statement of Relevance: Nurse fatigue and performance has implications for patient and provider safety. Results from this study demonstrate the importance of a multidimensional view of fatigue in understanding the causal relationships between fatigue and performance. The findings can guide future work aimed at predicting fatigue-related performance decrements and designing interventions.
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Keywords: fatigue; healthcare; nursing; performance; workload

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering,University of Missouri, E3437 Lafferre HallColumbiaMO65211, USA 2: Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (0118),Virginia Tech, 250 Durham HallBlacksburgVA24061, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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