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To sleep, perchance?

27 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 12


Sam Foster, Chief Nurse, Oxford University Hospitals, reflects on the cultural clash between the idea of ‘sleeping on the job’ and the need for staff to be well rested to ensure safety

There is no doubt that clinical work is physically and emotionally demanding; shift work, long working hours and the travel time to and from work can make it challenging for staff to care for themselves. Fatigue-related errors and accidents are a real risk for staff and their patients. Blackley (2019) wrote about the tragic story of a Scottish doctor who died in a road accident after finishing a night shift. The article called for the Scottish Government to improve measures to support wellbeing, including the idea of introducing ‘sleep pods’; these are essentially a comfortable reclining chair, typically with a visor to block out the light and distractions, and they often have the ability to play music to the user.

At a management meeting recently in my Trust, a senior medical colleague brought a proposal for sleep pods to be piloted to enable our junior medical staff to rest. This was in response to the work our ‘sleep and rest working group’ established to reduce the risk to staff and patients and address trainee doctor concerns. The working group had been considering practical ways to support staff health and wellbeing, focusing specifically on reducing the negative effects on physical and cognitive functioning of staff working intensively and for long hours.

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