Internal and Emergency Medicine

, Volume 13, Issue 8, pp 1273–1281 | Cite as

Fatigue-related risk management in the emergency department: a focus-group study

  • Pierre BérastéguiEmail author
  • Mathieu Jaspar
  • Alexandre Ghuysen
  • Anne-Sophie Nyssen


Fatigue has major implications on both patient safety and healthcare practitioner’s well-being. Traditionally, two approaches can be used to reduce fatigue-related risk: reducing the likelihood of a fatigued operator working (i.e. fatigue reduction), or reducing the likelihood that a fatigued operator will make an error (i.e. fatigue proofing). Recent progress mainly focussed on fatigue reduction strategies such as reducing work hours. Yet it has to be recognized that such approach has not wholly overcome the experience of fatigue. Our purpose is to investigate individual proofing and reduction strategies used by emergency physicians to manage fatigue-related risk. 25 emergency physicians were recruited for the study. Four focus groups were formed which consisted of an average of six individuals. Qualitative data were collected using a semi-structured discussion guide unfolding in two parts. First, the participants were asked to describe how on-the-job fatigue affected their efficiency at work. A mind map was progressively drawn based upon the participants’ perceived effects of fatigue. Second, participants were asked to describe any strategies they personally used to cope with these effects. We used inductive qualitative content analysis to reveal content themes for both fatigue effects and strategies. Emergency physicians reported 28 fatigue effects, 12 reduction strategies and 21 proofing strategies. Content analysis yielded a further classification of proofing strategies into self-regulation, task re-allocation and error monitoring strategies. There is significant potential for the development of more formal processes based on physicians’ informal strategies.


Risk management Fatigue proofing strategies Emergency service 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of human and animal rights

All procedures performed in the study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© SIMI 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cognitive Ergonomics Laboratory (LECIT), Department of Work PsychologyUniversity of LiègeLiegeBelgium
  2. 2.Emergency DepartmentUniversity Hospital Centre of LiègeLiegeBelgium

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