Doctors at Hereford County Hospital are being encouraged to take power naps to help keep them fresh and avoid burnout.
The initiative is part of a national Fight Fatigue campaign and sees a special 'sleep pod' installed in a 3-month trial.
Wye Valley NHS Trust junior doctor Syed Husain (pictured) told Medscape News UK: "The sleep pods are primarily for power naps, and they're part of a wider initiative within the Trust as part of Fighting Fatigue.
"The idea is the 20 minute power nap you can take to refresh yourself if you're on a long shift, whether it's the day shift or night shift.
"I think for their purpose, they're quite nice. They're certainly different. It's also a talking point that we've got rest facilities available, including the on-call rooms, which you can request out-of-hours if you're tired after a long day or a night shift.
"The pod puts you in a zero gravity position. Essentially, you sit in the pod, you put some noise cancelling headphones on, a screen comes in front of you, which you manually pull round. Then it's as simple as pressing play on the side. It plays some gentle music in the background, that's supposed to be calming. And it will take you through a 20-minute break.
"You don't necessarily have to sleep but the idea is that for 20 minutes you can shut off away from your clinical work or other things, refresh yourself, and then you can carry on with your shift afterwards.
"The way I've used it, if it's been a long shift overnight, especially the 4am lulls when you have the physiological drop, and it's been busy, it's an opportunity to take a break.
"If you have a coffee, and then you have a quick nap inside it you feel a lot more refreshed afterwards because the coffee kicks in after about 20 minutes, you have that downtime, and it pushes you through.
"So, it's definitely positive. It's not a replacement for on-call rooms, but for its purpose, I think it's quite nice.
"At the moment we've got it in the hospital mess, and the noise cancelling, headphones don't completely block out the sound."
He said that if the pod stays after the trial, he'd like to see some changes: "We'd have it in a separate room, in a dedicated area, and there'd be more than one."
Doctor's Death Prompted Action
Doctors too tired to drive home after shifts are also being provided with rooms where they can catch up on sleep.
Human Resources Director Sue Smith added: "We’re encouraging staff to fight fatigue by taking breaks, staying hydrated, eating well, getting extra sleep before a night shift and taking a power nap during their break when working a night shift to improve alertness."
Fight Fatigue is a joint project between the Association of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.
It launched in 2018 in response to the death of a trainee anaesthetist who died whilst driving home tired after a night shift.
A national survey of anaesthetic trainees by the College with a 59% response rate (2231 respondents) published in the journal Anaesthesia in 2017 found fatigue affected:
Physical health (73.6%)
Psychological wellbeing (71.2%)
Personal relationships (67.9%)
After night shifts, 57% said they experienced accidents or a near‐miss when travelling home.
Also on night shifts, respondents highlighted an absence of breaks and inadequate rest facilities.
Association of Anaesthetists President, Dr Kathleen Ferguson, said: "We want to change attitudes across the NHS to ensure everyone understands the risks of fatigue and how to mitigate against them. We hope that by taking responsibility collectively for making changes to working practice, we can improve working conditions for all staff which will in turn benefit patient care."
Anaesthesia: A national survey of the effects of fatigue on trainees in anaesthesia in the UK. Published 5th July 2017. https://doi.org/10.1111/anae.13965
Editor's Note, 28th January 2020: This article was updated to include new quotes from Dr Husain.
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Cite this: Nicky Broyd. Hospital Installs Sleep Pod to Help Tackle Doctors' Burnout - Medscape - Jan 25, 2020.