Alert Workplace From Healthcare Workers’ Perspective: Behavioral and Environmental Strategies to Improve Vigilance and Alertness in Healthcare Settings

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Abstract

Objective:

This study aims to identify the behavioral and environmental strategies that healthcare workers view as helpful for managing sleepiness, improving alertness, and therefore optimizing workplace safety.

Background:

Reduced alertness is a common issue in healthcare work environments and is associated with impaired cognitive performance and decision-making ability as well as increased errors and injuries.

Method:

We surveyed 136 healthcare professionals at a primary care clinic, an acute care hospital, and a mental health clinic. Nonstructured, semistructured, and structured questionnaires were used to elicit relevant information which was analyzed using qualitative content analysis and logistic regression models, respectively.

Results:

In order by frequency of endorsement: dietary intervention; physical mobility; cognitive, sensory, or social stimulation; personal lifestyle strategies; and rest/nap opportunities were reported as behavioral strategies used to address workplace alertness. Compared to other environmental features, daylight and thermal comfort were perceived to be more important to addressing workplace alertness (p < .05).

Conclusions:

By optimizing the physical environment and organizational policies and providing education programs, we have an opportunity to support healthcare professionals in managing sleepiness and maintaining alertness at work. In addition, such system level interventions may reduce unhealthy choices such as frequent caffeine intake to keep alert. The development of multidisciplinary evidence-based guidelines is needed to address sleepiness and alertness to improve workplace safety in healthcare facilities.

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