Nursing errors due to fatigue include a range of medical and diagnostic errors. These encompass mistakes such as improper medication administration, failure to follow proper procedures, and other errors. The medical field attempts to address the connection between nurse fatigue and shift length by imposing shift restrictions. Still, not every nurse, doctor, or hospital is compliant with these hour restrictions, putting patients at risk of injury or even death.
Few Illinois workers have the potential to make fatal errors when they become fatigued while on the job. An Illinois nursing error lawyer likely knows that nurses are chief among workers with this potential. Like many other healthcare workers, nurses are particularly susceptible to causing severe medical errors due to the nature of their employment. When patient lives rest in the hands of nurses who are extremely fatigued after long shifts and overtime, the likelihood that they will make fatal medical errors only increases.
Nurse Fatigue and Shift Length
Nurses commonly work 12 or more hours per shift and may be at the hospital for three or more shifts a week. While this may seem ideal initially, changes in shift length are frequent and unpredictable due to patient needs and last-minute staffing changes. Nurses often work their entire 12-hour shift only to be asked to stay on for a few additional hours to maintain adequate staffing levels for patient care. Alternating day and night shifts and consecutive shifts that require overtime also contribute to nurse fatigue.
Without adequate rest, nurses experience fatigue, potentially putting their patients in harms’ way. According to the CDC, going without sleep for over 24 hours can have the same effect as having a blood alcohol content of 0.10.
Nursing Errors Due to Fatigue
A study found in the medical journal, Health Affairs, outlines just how easily nurse fatigue can cause medical mistakes. Researchers examined the behavior of 393 nurses over more than 5,300 shifts. They found that when nurses worked 12 ½ hour shifts or longer, they were three times more likely to cause a medical error. An additional study found in the American Journal of Critical Care reports that nurses who are fatigued are much more likely to regret one or more medical decision that they make while fatigued. Unfortunately, an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer often sees the effects of the mistakes these exhausted nurses make.
Confronting the Problem of Nursing Errors Due to Fatigue
In 2000, the American Nurses Association began an initiative to reduce the risks of nurse fatigue by combating the problem at its source. It released a policy that it believes, if properly implemented, will help hospitals reduce nurse fatigue and stop many medical errors from occurring in the process. The new policy includes the following recommendations:
- Limit shifts to no more than 12 hours and workweeks to no more than 40 hours.
- When nurses work both days and nights, minimize consecutive night shifts.
- Eliminate mandatory overtime for all nurses.
- Allow nurses the ability to refuse work assignments to prevent fatigue.
- Provide transportation or sleep rooms for nurses who are too tired to safely drive home following a shift.
In return, the ANA states that nurses must be willing to do what it takes to come to work well-rested and take appropriate breaks during their shifts.
How a Nurse Error Lawyer Can Help Victims Recover
Those who have been injured due to the medical mistakes of a nurse should contact an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer for a claim evaluation. With the help of a nursing error lawyer, many individuals may be able to successfully seek compensation for the damages that they sustained because of medical errors. Nursing error is one of the many types of medical malpractice. A medical malpractice lawyer may help you understand the signs of medical malpractice and if you have a valid claim against the hospital or nurse.