AAOHN Introduces "Wake Up to Worker Sleep Issues" Course for Nurses in the Workplace

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses today announced the launch of an educational program to help occupational health nurses better understand sleep disorders and identify workers with these conditions.

Called “Wake Up to Worker Sleep Issues,” the online learning module offers an overview of normal adult sleep, circadian rhythms and sleep regulation. It examines how sleep affects work and how to do a sleep assessment, and details common sleep disorders. Accessible at aaohn.org, the 2.5-hour course can be used to earn continuing nursing education credit.

“Sleep health is an important issue for the occupational health nurse because it is deeply linked to the overall physical and mental wellbeing of workers,” said Karen Heaton, PhD, CRNP, FNP-BC, lead developer of Wake Up to Worker Sleep Issues.

“Sleep disruption and disorders are associated with occupational injury, decreased productivity, and increased costs to employers in claims paid,” Heaton adds. “Workers in safety-sensitive jobs, transportation and healthcare are particularly affected, and may present a public, as well as a personal health threat.”

Multiple studies have shown sleep is linked to the overall physical and mental wellbeing of workers. For example:

  • Sleep disruption and circadian misalignment are typically associated with shift work (Drake et al., 2004; Folkard, 2008). The impact of these disruptions is highly significant, as up to 20% of the workforce work some night shift hours. Most commonly, the relationship between sleep, fatigue, and health is evident in studies of workers in safety sensitive jobs.
  • Fatigue related to long hours, medication use, and poor sleep can contribute to motor vehicle crashes in commercial drivers (FMCSA, 2012).
  • In a study of more than 800 commercial drivers, 25 percent were classified as having chronic sleepiness as measured by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (Heaton et al., 2008). Obstructive sleep apnea is a highly prevalent sleep disorder in this group of workers as well; with prevalence rates up to five times higher than in the general population (Treagear, Reston, Schoelles, Phillips, 2009).
  • Health care providers also have a high prevalence of sleep disruption, with 52% of licensed night-shift nurses identified as sleep deprived (Johnson et al., 2010). Health care provider fatigue is a wellrecognized factor in medical errors, as illustrated by the 2008 Institute of Medicine Report “Resident Duty Hours: Enhancing Sleep, Supervision and Safety."
  • Sleep disruption and disorders are associated with occupational injury, decreased productivity, and increased costs to employers in claims paid. CONTACT: Amy Minchin For Immediate Release 251-599-5125 June 17, 2015 amy.minchin@internationalamc.com
  • Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea have been associated with injury in farmers (Heaton et al., 2010; Spengler et al., 2004, and other groups of workers (Lindberg et al., 2001; Ulfberg, Carter, and Edling, 2000).
  • Work-related musculoskeletal symptoms in nurses were significantly associated with overtime and adverse scheduling-suggesting a connection between sleep disruption and musculoskeletal complaints (Trinkoff et al., 2006).
  • Risk of motor vehicle crash and associated fatal and non-fatal injuries increases in transportation workers who are either sleep deprived acutely, or have obstructive sleep apnea (FMCSA, 2012; Treagear et al, 2009). In the case of transportation workers, their sleep issues are also a public health threat to the persons with whom they share the roadways.
  • Sleep loss is associated with decreased motivation, negative moods (Pilcher and Odle-Desseau, 2005), and work productivity (Grunstein et al., 1995). Improvement in productivity and a number of other measures have been observed in workers with obstructive sleep apnea who received treatment (Mulgrew et al., 2007; Nena et al., 2010; Scharf et al., 1999; Ulfberg et al., 1999).
  • Sleep disorders are costly to employers and insurers. The cost of motor vehicle crashes related to obstructive sleep apnea, using year 2000 data, has been estimated at almost 16 billion dollars (Sassani et al., 2004). Direct medical costs and utilization of healthcare systems are increased for patients with obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders (Kapur et al., 1999; Sklar and Skaer, 2010; Tarasiuk et al., 2008). Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea decreases healthcare utilization and costs (Albarrak et al., 2005).

Jeannie Tomlinson, president of AAOHN, said “We know that sleep loss and sleep disorders have a significant impact on workers and their employers. By educating occupational health nurses – the nurses who are on the front lines of health and safety in the workplace – we hope to facilitate improved identification and more rapid treatment of workers with these conditions, and ultimately decrease occupational injuries and costs related to sleep disruption and disorders.”

In the United States, there are approximately 19,000 nurses working to deliver health and safety programs and services to domestic and global workers, worker populations and community groups, Tomlinson said.

The AAOHN Foundation, with a grant from the Teva Pharmaceutical Foundation, funded the development of the Wake Up to Worker Sleep Issues course.

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), with more than 4,500 members, is a professional association dedicated to advancing the health, safety, and productivity of domestic and global workforces by providing education, research, public policy, and practice resources for occupational and environmental health nurses throughout the United States and the world. These professionals are the largest group of health care providers serving the worksite. AAOHN is comprised of chapter organizations that are incorporated agencies under their state regulations.

More information about the occupational health nursing profession and the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc., is available at aaohn.org. # # #

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