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‘Energy pod’ launched in Limerick to fight fatigue in hospital staff

An ‘energy pod’ has been installed in the library at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) to provide a secure rest facility for staff and help them overcome fatigue and stress.

This is a pilot project co-funded by the HSE Library and the National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP).

It is supported by the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland.

The NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission report (Feb 2019) highlighted the importance of rest periods and emphasised the impact a lack of sleep can have on a healthcare professionals’ performance at work, particularly during night shifts.

The report recommends that health services provide on-call staff access to sleep facilities and recognises staff may need to sleep on site after an on-call shift before they are safe to travel home. 

Speaking at the launch of the pilot project in UHL, Martin McCormack, CEO, College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland, noted that the Fight Fatigue campaign in Britain had been started by Dr Mike Farquhar and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) after  two colleagues died in accidents on their way home from work.

“Here in Ireland, the College of Anaesthesiologists surveyed 240 trainees on our national training programme last year and found over 60 per cent of them had either been involved in an accident or had had a near-miss. More frighteningly, 18 people had fallen asleep on the motorway on the way home from work after doing a shift,” explained Mr McCormack.

“We in the College are backers of the Fight Fatigue campaign. There is a whole science behind targeted sleeping, particularly in the early hours of the morning for doctors working long hours without proper naps. Doctors too often get into a cycle where their circadian rhythm is broken and this can lead to all manner of issues around lifestyle and diet.

“This energy pod really serves two purposes. Firstly, there is the science behind the 15-20 minute nap being ideal to re-energise somebody who is on a night shift. The energy pod does that and gives you uninterrupted sleep in a controlled environment. And in the broader sense it is part of the Fight Fatigue campaign. We want to drive that and highlight awareness of all aspects of it. Not everybody has given up on the health service. We have not given up on our staff. We care for the doctors and the nurses and the allied health professionals who are looking after our families and we want them to be in the best possible way when they are treating patients.”

Ms Aoife Lawton, National HSE Librarian, said there was good evidence the energy pod would prove beneficial in the battle against fatigue and stress. Hospital libraries were generally accessible around-the-clock and it made sense to work with the NDTP on this project.

“The National Library decided that the energy pod tied in well with our strategy of making our network of libraries more open, welcoming, digitally enabled and innovative,” Ms Lawton said.“The purpose of this project is to provide a rest facility to doctors and other clinical staff working in hospitals, particularly those working on the night shift.  The energy pod is now available to workers in a secure and quiet location, the hospital library.  The hospital library is accessible 24/7 to all staff and students who have swipe cards.  It is an innovative use of space and promotes the use of the library beyond its primary purpose as a place of learning,” she added.

The new library at the CERC in Limerick had opened in 2018 and presented a perfect opportunity for this pilot project. The initiative had been enthusiastically supported by the library staff in Limerick, Ms Isabelle DeLaunois and Ms Patsy Walsh.

Ms Lawton added that the evidence gathered in Limerick could ultimately support the rollout of energy pods in hospital libraries around the country.

Prof Paul Burke, Chief Academic Officer, UL Hospitals Group, said: “The overall aim of this project is to enhance the wellbeing of doctors and other health professionals, including students, in their work environment.  UHL is one of the busiest hospitals in the country with highly committed staff working to uphold the highest standards in quality and patient safety.UHL is the first hospital in Ireland with such a facility and it is breaking new ground by responding to the health and wellbeing needs of its staff in a tangible way.  All staff are welcome and encouraged to try out the pod for themselves.”

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