by Megan Speight


Nurses are no strangers to fatigue. They are often pushed to the boundaries trying to meet the needs

of patients and manage the various tasks set by Employers. Tiredness is very common in the early

years of practise, and we all have our ways of getting through those really long weeks!

This month we are looking more closely at fatigue in the workplace, what it is and how to avoid it.

Nurses with busy or stressful homes lives are most at risk of developing fatigue or “burning out”

but it can happen to anyone and for a variety of reasons.

Fatigue is more than just feeling tired. Safe Work Australia describes it as “a state of mental and/

or physical exhaustion that reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively”.

Fatigue is considered either physical or mental (psychological). Of the two, mental fatigue is

the more serious concern as it impacts our ability to concentrate and make decisions. Other than

complete exhaustion, which all nurses feel from time to time, some of the symptoms of fatigue (in

an otherwise healthy individual) include: –

  • Aching or sore muscles
  • Painful lymph nodes
  • Apathy, lack of motivation
  • Chronic (long-term) tiredness
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Hand-to-eye coordination may be impaired
  • Headache
  • Impaired judgment
  • Indecisiveness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Moodiness
  • Poorer immune system function
  • Short-term memory impairment – there may be problems organizing thoughts and finding the right words to say (brain fog)
  • Sleepiness, drowsiness
  • Slow responses to stimuli
  • Slower-than-normal reflexes
  • Some vision problems, such as blurriness

Some of the factors that contribute to fatigue include long shifts and too much overtime, long

commutes to and from work, family demands, poor sleep patterns, individual body clock and

shift work. Other factors can contribute too such as poor diet or personal stress. A blood test will

rule out any underlying nasties such as anemia or thyroid issues, and there are plenty of tips on how

to maximise your sleeping habits. If you are feeling stressed or under pressure then talk to a friend

or counsellor. A healthy lifestyle and a positive mental state is your best weapon against fatigue.

You must look after yourself, if not for you then for your patients who deserve the best of you at

all times. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or think you are at risk then please – take


(symptoms cited by Christian Nordqvist, Medical News Today 18 July 2012)