A new educational course for occupational health nurses is aimed at improving the ability of these frontline healthcare professionals to identify patients with sleep disorders so that they can facilitate more rapid treatment.
Called “Wake Up to Worker Sleep Issues”, the 2.5-hour online learning module recently launched by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) covers the gamut of sleep issues, including an overview of normal adult sleep, circadian rhythms and sleep regulation, how sleep affects work, and the most common sleep disorders, as well as training on how to perform a sleep assessment.
Although it is designed for occupational health professionals, the module is ideal for any healthcare professional, according to the program’s lead developer, Karen Heaton, PhD, CRNP, FNP-BC.
“Sleep health is an important issue for any healthcare provider, because it is deeply linked to the overall physical and mental well-being of patients, the vast majority of whom are workers,” said Heaton.
“Workers in safety-sensitive jobs such as transportation and healthcare are particularly affected and may present a public as well as a personal health threat,” she said.
Numerous data show the negative effects of poor sleep on workers, including a 2010 study showing that more than 50% of licensed night shift nurses were sleep deprived, as well as a 2008 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report [PDF] showing that fatigue among healthcare providers is a factor in medical errors.
Along with the personal toll sleep disruption and disorders take on workers, there are also significant effects on both direct (medical) and indirect (decreased productivity) costs.
Heaton emphasized that participation in the course “could lead to decreased healthcare costs, occupational injuries, and personal costs, including quality of life, related to sleep disruption and disorders.”