A new Kronos Incorporated survey titled “Employee Engagement in Nursing” finds that 93% of US-based registered nurses (RNs) are satisfied in their career choice. Despite this, nurse fatigue is a substantial issue with 98% of nurses stating that the work of a nurse is both physically and mentally demanding. Of note, 44% say that their managers don’t know how tired they are and 43% hide how tired they are from their managers. More than four out of five (83%) also say that hospitals today are losing good nurses because corporations and other employers offer a better work/life balance. The survey also finds that gaining more control over their schedules is the top factor that can help nurses alleviate a significant amount of fatigue, with more than half (55%) of nurses agreeing to it.

This national survey of 257 RNs who work in a hospital setting was designed to look at the issue of fatigue in nursing, and also what nurses and their hospitals are doing about it. The data shows that nurses, while satisfied with their career choice, are definitely fatigued.

Key Findings

Nurses are exhausted and fatigue has consequences

  • 98% of nurses say that the work of a nurse is both physically and mentally demanding, and 93% state that at the end of a typical day they are mentally and/or physically tired. Four out of five nurses say they find it hard to balance mind, body, and spirit.
  • More than four out of five (85%) note that their work causes them to be fatigued overall, and this has consequences:
    • 56% of nurses overall and 70% of night-shift nurses say they have driven home from work drowsy, and 12% overall and nearly a quarter (23%) of night-shift nurses have pulled their vehicle off the road to rest;
    • 44% of nurses worry their patient care will suffer because they are so tired;
    • 37% of nurses say they worry about making a mistake, and 11% state they have made a mistake at work because they were so tired; and
    • 28% of nurses have called in sick just to get some rest.
  • Among the top causes of fatigue, nurses identify the following—excessive workloads (60%); being unable to take lunch and dinner breaks during a shift (42%); not being able to take any breaks during a shift (41%); and not being able to get enough sleep between shifts (25%). Additionally, 24% of nurses say that 12-hour shifts (as opposed to 8-hour shifts) are key for causing fatigue.

Nurse fatigue can lead to job burnout

  • Though nurses love their work, more than three out of five (63%) say their work has caused job burnout and two out of five (41%) state they have considered changing hospitals in the past year because they have felt burned out.
  • Hospitals and health systems should be concerned as 90% of nurses say they have thought of leaving the hospital they work at to find a different job with better work/life balance and 83% state that hospitals are losing good nurses because corporations and other employers offer a better work/life balance.

Nurses want more control over their schedules

  • When asked who in their organization handles nurse scheduling, 47% of nurses say that it is a nurse manager, 35% note that they handle it themselves through self-scheduling, and 11% say that a central staffing office handles scheduling.
  • Conversely, when asked who they think should handle scheduling in their organization, 43% say they think nurses should self schedule, while only 9% think that a nurse manager should own scheduling. Two percent of nurses say that a central staffing office should be in charge, and 46% note that ownership of scheduling should be some combination of the three (self scheduling/nurse manager/central staffing office).
  • While 86% of nurses say their scheduling preferences are taken into account when creating their schedules and 55% agree they can ask their manager to alter their schedules to reduce fatigue, 49% say that it would help reduce fatigue if they could easily swap shifts with another nurse.
  • Sixty percent of nurses say that if they had more say in their shift scheduling they would have a better work/life balance, and 55% agree that having more control over their scheduling would help alleviate fatigue.

Some hospitals are trying to help combat fatigue but not always in the most effective ways

  • While 60% of nurses say their hospital offers a wellness program for employees, only 31% agree that their employers make sure they take a meal break, and only 14% say their employers ensure they leave on time. A full 20% say that their employers don’t offer any program to help with fatigue.
  • When asked what their hospitals can do to combat fatigue, the top answer (55%) is to offer better schedules. Providing more breaks (47%), offering health and wellness programs (41%), and managing overtime more effectively (35%) are also top-of-mind solutions.

Despite fatigue, nurses love their work and colleagues

  • Ninety-three percent of nurses say that, when they consider all aspects of their work, they are satisfied with being a nurse and 77% note they are energized by their work.
  • Eighty-three percent of nurses have helped another nurse when that person was so tired that they needed a break, and 75% of nurses say that if it wasn’t for their team at work they don’t know how they would survive.