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Tips For Overcoming Long Haul Nursing Risks

Nurses employed by hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities in California often work 12-hour shifts for four or more days a week.

The volume of natural disasters, pandemics, wildfires and earthquakes in the past year has driven the demand for most nurses to work additional hours, or “long haul” shifts to meet the demands of injured and ill patients.

While nurses earned more money the additional work hours exposed nurses to risks that can limit them from doing their jobs at peak levels. Let’s explore some of the challenges that can result from long haul nursing and discuss some avoidance and prevention methods.

Sleeping Disorders

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 1 in 3 adults do not regularly get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 7 to 8 hours of daily, uninterrupted sleep for adults. That’s a tall order if you are a nurse, work a 12-hour shift, have to get to and from your workplace, shop, take care of a household, kids or a significant other.

Furthermore, people whose sleep is out of sync with their body clocks (such as shift workers) are routinely interrupted (such as emergency responders) might need to pay special attention to their sleep needs and improved sleep husbandry. The NIH recommends these tips to help secure better sleep, even if your shifts are staggered:

  • Try to use the hour before bed for quiet time. Avoid strenuous exercise and bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. The light may signal the brain that it’s still time to be awake or more needs to be done.
  • Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a couple hours of bedtime. Also, try and avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
  • Pass on nicotine and caffeine. Both substances are stimulants that can interfere with restful restorative sleep.
  • Spend time outside every day (when possible) to gather your daily Vitamin D and try to be physically active.

Inadequate sleep may seem like an inherent risk of nursing, but sleep deprivation has been linked to large-scale damage and catastrophic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns. If a nuclear catastrophe is possible, then imagine how sleep deprivation influences the likelihood of finger sticks, delayed reactions and improper documentation, and misjudgment.

If you feel you have developed a sleep disorder, see a doctor, get tested to properly evaluative whether patient safety is at risk. You may have developed a mental, neurological, or other disabling condition that prevents you from working in the short- or long-term that needs care, treatment or time to heal.

Mental Stress and PTSD

Prolonged exposure to patients who are ill, injured and their families can take a tremendous toll on your mental and psychological states. Reports indicate that 10 million adults suffer from serious mental illnesses that interfere with their ability to perform the important duties of their occupations. Exacting focus, sustained attention, executive processing are all important to safely practice nursing, so be careful.

The most common mental illnesses are anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burnout syndrome (BOS) obsessive-compulsive disorder and irrational fears. Major depressive and mood disorders are also very common causes of short and long-term disability.

The publication Depression and Anxiety polled university hospital nurses in the U.S. to explore the extent of PTSD and BOS. The overall response rate was 41%; Twenty-two percent had symptoms of PTSD, 18% met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, and a whopping 86% met the criteria for BOS. Fatigue, sleep deprivation, stress, fear of the dreaded virus, death are all part of a nurse’s “new pandemic normal.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this already staggeringly high rate. According to Scientific American, a survey of 1,257 physicians and nurses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China found that about 50% of respondents reported symptoms of depression, 44% reported symptoms of anxiety and 34% reported insomnia.

[link to PTSD blog post] At DarrasLaw, many of our clients who work in healthcare suffer from severe bouts of PTSD, and depression, due to treating patients impacted by wildfires, gun violence, earthquakes, COVID-19 and other diseases. These hard working professionals need critical, long-term care to heal before they can safely return to work.

Mental illnesses are estimated to cost patients almost $200 billion in lost earnings per year. Don’t join their ranks. Though many individual and group long-term disability insurers limit mental health coverage, DarrasLaw has continually proven—in and out of court—that with the proper claim help, medical documentation, medication, and doctor and/or therapist support we win mental nervous cases. Know you aren’t alone and help is available.

The award-winning individual and nationally renowned group long-term disability attorneys at DarrasLaw always offer a free disability policy analysis and free claim consultation to determine whether your individual, group or association related policy entitles you to short and/or long-term disability benefits. If you suffer from any type of mental or physical injury or illness that prevents you from performing the important duties of your occupation, call us today at (866) 276-3054 or contact us online.

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