What's a day in a CNA's work like? Ask any CNA this question, and you will need hours of active listening before they finish recounting what usually happens at work. It will surely be a story of several niches: a race for time, the wars and the common battleground, superhuman strengths and feats, the emotional roller coaster, treasure hunts (yes, like when an equipment has gone missing), and detective work (like when an older patient with Alzheimer's disease forgot where they put their ‘most favorite thing in the world’. To a nursing assistant, especially those who are new to the job, these everyday hurdles can become overwhelming.
What happens when you find yourself needing to catch up on sleep every day after work? What about feeling physically overworked and emotionally drained as a CNA? If there is one word to describe a nurse assistant’s everyday challenge, it is F-A-T-I-G-U-E.
What is fatigue? Fatigue is the feeling of tiredness, weariness or exhaustion. Here is a checklist of the signs and symptoms of fatigue and see how many of these pertain to you:
- lack of adequate rest and sleep
- too much or prolonged physical exertion
- prolonged emotional exhaustion
- low energy
- poor performance at work
- decreased focus and attention
- prone to making mistakes
If you answered yes to all or most of the items in the list, then take a look at these risk factors, and again see which happens to you:
- working overtime most of the time (or always?)
- frequently working ‘on-call’ apart from your regular working schedule
- working two consecutive shifts
- working with less than 10 hours between shifts
- working without breaks
- working even if sick or feeling unwell
- constantly dealing with conflicts and aggression in the workplace
- feeling sleepy at work
All the above may happen to anyone at any time, but the main consideration here is how much and how long these are experienced.
Fatigue in nursing assistants affects not only themselves but also their co-workers and their patients. Patient injury and other errors that result from working beyond exhaustion are serious consequences of CNA fatigue because human lives are put in danger. Before everything falls out of place because of weariness, check out and follow these tips:
KEEP PHYSICALLY FIT. Load up with healthy foods. If you work the day shift, your breakfast should super-charge you. Include carbohydrates, protein, and fiber in your diet to give you energy until your break. Do not forget to hydrate yourself while at work.
PRACTICE PROPER BODY MECHANICS. Use equipment that will make your workload easier. Invest in a good pair of shoes. Develop a system that is efficient and time-saving. These strategies will prevent body aches and pain brought about by too much physical exertion.
2. If prevention doesn’t quite make it, and you feel fatigued because of extraordinary circumstances, then focus on recovery.
Being a nursing assistant working in a fast-paced environment, it is common to experience the above factors. The idea is to recover fast. Maintain the strategies for prevention and include these tips below to get back on your feet in no time.
- DO NOT SKIP A BREAK OR A MEAL. If you find this impossible, you have to team up with a co-worker and make it possible for both of you. Use your break to take a power nap and to eat healthily.
- PRACTICE DEEP BREATHING AND DO STRETCHING EXERCISES. You need to get your body pumped up with oxygen and your blood circulating properly.
- DETERMINE IF YOU NEED A CHANGE OF SHIFT. The bulk of work is in the morning shift. The afternoon shift lasts until late at night. The evening shift has the least workload, but it can disrupt your body rhythm. If you think you are better off working another shift, make a request.
- TAKE A LEAVE OF ABSENCE. Use this time to unwind and to connect with family and friends. Use the bulk of this precious time to have adequate sleep, rest, and relaxation. Do not oversleep as this is counterproductive. Also, getting a good body massage can rejuvenate tired muscles.
As a healthcare worker, your service as a CNA is very significant. Your health is of utmost importance, and your patient’s safety is a priority. Do not let fatigue get the better of you.
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