Underestimated Dangers of Nursing Fatigue

stethescope-300x200Nurses, who are fatigued, tired or stressed may be incapable of delivering the kind of quality care that they are required to provide, and may be at a high risk of making mistakes that lead to injury, or even worse, death of a patient.

A combination of factors continues to keep nurses stressed and overworked. Staffing shortages at many hospitals stipulate that nurses work much harder than they are required to, or advised to, and often the consequences are disastrous for patient safety. Besides staffing shortages, hospitals endanger patient safety when they require nurses to work for longer hours than required.

Unfortunately, both of these conditions are far too common in many hospitals, with the result that nurses are frequently stressed and fatigued, and incapable of performing at their best. In fact, several studies have indicated that nurse fatigue not only leads to a higher risk of nursing errors, but also leads to dissatisfied nurses. Nurses who are dissatisfied suffer from low motivation levels, and that can definitely impact the quality of their work. This situation is dangerous, because nurses are at the frontier of providing care for patients, and any mistakes they make can severely impact patient safety.  Additionally, nurses who are stressed or overworked may also suffer from early burnout. This can cause extreme lethargy, frustration, depression and disinterest, all of which are anathema to patient safety.

In 2014, data that was submitted to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System found that a whopping 88% of the 1,600 patient safety incidents or near misses reported were the result of health worker fatigue. Out of these, 37 incidents resulted in serious harm, and 4 resulted in patient deaths. The most common errors made by nurses and healthcare workers were under the influence of fatigue. These included wrong medication doses, dose omissions, and over dosage. In fact, 62% of the incidents involved medication errors. Other errors were detected during treatments, procedures or tests.

Hospitals can invest in helping to identify fatigue and reduce its impact on patient safety. Nurses and their employers share the responsibility of reducing the risk resulting from shift work. Employers must create a culture of safety and wellness, and must invest in regular assessment of current staffing levels and scheduling in order to avoid the dangers of unsafe work situations for nurses. Employers must also invite nurses to contribute in designing work schedules and must create a work culture that encourages nurses to speak up when they’re struggling with problems related to fatigue and overwork. In many cases, nurses fail to report problems with fatigue or tiredness because they’re afraid of any punitive action being taken against them. Employers must also develop and implement internal systems that can help monitor fatigue levels.

The Indiana medical malpractice attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP represent persons injured as a result of hospital or nurse negligence across Indiana. Contact them immediately.