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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours


“The problem for me became very severe and my head nurse actually called me into her office to discuss it… it had gotten to the point where I was so chronically sleep-deprived that I was falling asleep while I was trying to report off to the on-coming shift. So, I’m sitting there talking about very complicated medical issues, and in the middle of a sentence, I would nod-off. And as you can imagine, the person I’m speaking to would be very upset that I’m so distracted and unfocused…”

-Quote from an interview with a night shift nurse

Sleep deprivation impairs your performance.8

  • When tasks require intense attention, performance is unstable. For example, you may fail to set a machine properly or miss a critical step in a procedure. Because cognitive deficits are not constant, you might mistakenly believe you can perform adequately despite sleep deprivation.
  • When you can pace activities without time pressure, cognitive slowing will be evident, but accuracy can be preserved. Under time pressure, however, cognitive slowinga can produce errors.
  • Increased effort is required for you to remain behaviorally effective.
  • Tasks may begin well, but your performance deteriorates as time-on-task increases.
  • Your response time slows.

aSlowing of mental processes involved in attention, memory, producing and understanding language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making.

Module: 3, Page 4 of 28