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Occupational Therapy Workplace Fatigue-

Definition modified  from the Canadian Nursing Association Position Statement "Taking Action on Nurse Fatigue" (2012) 


"The Society of Alberta Occupational Therapists (SAOT) believes that the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) statement about the risk for and consequences of workplace fatigue - below- applies to occupational therapists as well.  As such, SAOT has adopted the CNA definition of workplace fatigue (below) and modified it by substituting 'occupational therapist' and 'OT' for 'registered nurse' (RN) as relevant.  


We believe that OTs who are fatigued could be placing both the patient and themselves at risk. This is substantiated by research that links fatigue to adverse events for patients and health problems for health system providers.


Occupational therapist fatigue is:

a subjective feeling of tiredness that is physically and mentally penetrative.

It ranges from tiredness to exhaustion, creating an unrelenting overall condition that interferes with individuals’ physical and cognitive ability to function to their normal capacity.


It is multidimensional in both its causes and manifestations; it is influenced by many factors: physiological (e.g., circadian rhythms), psychological (e.g., stress, alertness, sleepiness), behavioural (e.g., pattern of work, sleep habits) and environmental (e.g., work demand).


Its experience involves some combination of features: physical (e.g., sleepiness) and psychological (e.g., compassion fatigue, emotional exhaustion). It may significantly interfere with functioning and may persist despite periods of rest.”


The Canadian Nurses Association declares, and SAOT concurs,  that factors in today’s health system environment contribute to healthcare worker fatigue, including:

  • increased worker stress,

  • increased workload,

  • understaffing,

  • increasing expectations from patients and families,

  • high levels of patient acuity,

  • unexpected emergencies with staffing or patients,

  • sensory overload,

  • functionally disorganized workplaces,

  • and relentless change within the workplace.


In an SAOT survey  occupational therapy participants noted additional contributing factors, including:

  • increasingly complex and chronic clients/patients,

  • vicarious trauma,

  • demands of rapidly changing technology,

  • limited time and financial resources to maintain/upgrade clinical competency,

  • frequent reorganization and changes to reporting structures,

  • and for private practice OTs, challenges related to running a small business.


Research demonstrates that the consequences of OT fatigue include reduction of skillful anticipation and patient safety; diminished judgment; degraded decision-making; slowed reaction time and lack of concentration; absenteeism; clinical errors; failure to rescue; falling asleep when driving home; and interpersonal consequences, including decreased quality of interaction with colleagues and patients.


Additional research demonstrates a relationship between workplace fatigue, ethical behaviour and prejudicial decision-making.  


These features are explored in depth in the series of educational clips on this website.

who need to understand the scope and impact of workplace fatigue


who need to understand the scope and impact of workplace fatigue

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