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Research capsule

Understanding nurse fatigue

In a time of labour shortages, health sector managers are concerned about the impact of fatigue on nurse retention. Stéphanie Austin, a researcher in the Department of Human Resources Management at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, examined the phenomenon of nurse attrition by studying the characteristics of fatigue specific to the hospital environment.

In total, the researcher examined three types of fatigue: chronic fatigue, acute fatigue and inter-shift fatigue.

She conducted a study of 260 nurses. Staff were asked to complete an online questionnaire designed to identify various levels and types of fatigue, and to observe their correlation. In total, the researcher examined three types of fatigue: chronic fatigue, which is a persistent state that is not relieved by rest or lighter workloads; acute fatigue, which is a temporary state experienced after a long shift but which disappears after rest; and inter-shift fatigue, which is a temporary state resulting from inadequate recovery between shifts.

The results revealed three distinct profiles: a fatigue-free profile (51%), an acute profile (13%), consisting of individuals with moderate overall and acute fatigue levels, and a chronic profile (36%), consisting of those with high levels of both overall and chronic fatigue.

The study also shows that people with a chronic or acute fatigue profile are at a significantly greater risk of leaving the nursing profession. Psychological detachment, the ability to truly disengage from work during rest periods, has been shown to reduce the risk of having a chronic or acute fatigue profile. It is therefore important for health sector workers to learn to distance themselves from their work when outside the workplace, in order to better recuperate.