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VIEWPOINT By Karen Farmilo, BSN

Power Napping for Nurses


An underutilized strategy for staying sharp and engaged
in the course of a shift.

W
ould you try to run your car without gas, from meal break rooms and ensuring that it is used
choose to fly on a plane with an exhausted for the sole purpose of rejuvenating nap time rather
pilot, or expect your child to do well in than for eating, socializing, or the use of smartphones.
school without recess? Would you want to receive Ideally, the designated nap room should permit drink-
the wrong medication because your nurse is too fa- ing water but prohibit food.
tigued? The answer is obviousso why do we al- Other potential obstacles include the common
low nurses to reach the point of physical and mental misconception that napping at work promotes lazi-
exhaustion in the workplace? ness and the argument that integrating nap time into
Patient safety and advocacy for the well-being of the work schedule would be too difficult.
patients are at the heart of nursing, yet nurses often Yet a recent experience suggests that, in the right
fail to advocate for their own circumstances, power napping
well-being. During a typical can work. I had the pleasure of
shift, nurses become so en- helping an RNset up a desig-
Why do we
grossed in the care of their pa- nated quiet relaxation room on
tients that they often cannot allow nurses a medicalsurgical trauma unit.
find the time to use the rest- The employer agreed to dedicate
room or hydrate themselves, let to work this room for a six-week trial pe-
alone take a break. This has be- riod. The room was intended to
come the new norm. exhausted? be used for meditation, yoga,
With increasing workloads and rest and relaxation. It was
and long hours, its no surprise set up with reclining chairs, a
that nurses sometimes lack the stamina to perform mattress, pillows, yoga mats, blankets, soft lighting,
their duties to the best of their abilities. and calming music.
According to a 2011 Joint Commission Sentinel As a nursing assistant on this unit, I was able to
Event Alert, The link between health care worker make use of the room. On two consecutive 12-hour
fatigue and adverse events is well documented, with shifts, I buddied up with a coworker for the day so
asubstantial number of studies indicating that the we could cover for each other when using the room.
practice of extended work hours contributes to Before using the room, the one who planned to rest
high levels of worker fatigue and reduced produc- or nap would give her work phone to the other to
tivity. prevent any interruptions.
Fatigue and drowsiness dont afflict just night- I emerged from my 15-minute breaks reenergized
shift workers. An Agency for Healthcare Research and prepared to provide the quality of care that pa-
and Quality handbook published in 2008 cites a find- tients deserve. Im excited to say that plans to incor-
ing of the Study on Staff Nurse Fatigue and Patient porate this room as a permanent feature are already
Safety that 40% of drowsiness episodes reported by under way.
participants and 23% of episodes in which nurses Changing attitudes is difficult, but when employ-
reported having actually fallen asleep occurred be- erssee the many benefits of preventing burnout
tween 6 am and midnight. among their staff, they will be more likely to em-
In recent years, a number of studies have indicated brace the idea of power napping. Its our job to
that a short nap improves alertnessa finding con- educate employers on the positive aspects of inte-
sistent with centuries of human experience. One of- grating power nap rooms. Nurses deserve an envi
ten overlooked strategy for rejuvenating nurses in the ronment that nurtures their well-being, so lets
course of a 12-hour shift is to promote 10 to 20 min- provide it.
ute power naps.
This time should be in addition to a lunch break, Karen Farmilo recently finished nursing school and currently
but may take the place of an afternoon break. Per- works as a certified nursing assistant at John Muir Medical Cen-
ter, Walnut Creek, CA. Contact author: karenfarmilo@sbcglobal.
haps the most obvious obstacles to the use of power net. The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest,
napping at work include designating a separate room financial or otherwise.

ajn@wolterskluwer.com AJN May 2014 Vol. 114, No. 5 11