As healthcare’s unsung heroes, nurses work long shifts to ensure that doctor’s orders are followed and implemented. Working in a chaotic and exhausting environment, nurses interact with patients, doctors, and peers, sometimes at the same time. As a result of overwork and stress, nurses often suffer from burnout, fatigue, and exhaustion. Burnout and exhaustion can lead to medical errors and sometimes even catastrophic injuries or death.
There is a high demand for nurses and a shortage of skilled applicants. As a result, many nurses are required to work 12-hour shifts or even double 16-hour shifts. Because of this demand, nurses are often given the responsibility for too many patients, which can be more than a nurse can handle. This combination leads to burnout and high turnover.
How Fatigue Causes Medical Errors?
Several studies have been done to determine the link between adverse patient situations and nurses being overworked. The International Council of Nurses published a study called “Nurses in the Workplace: Expectations and Needs” in 2010.
The study found:
• 92 percent of nurses interviewed stated that they faced time limitations.
• 96 percent said that if they could spend more time with each individual patient, it would significantly impact patient health.
• 46 percent of the nurses interviewed had a heavier workload than they did five years ago.
The Mistakes Caused by Nurse Fatigue
Numerous errors can result from nurses being overworked.
Here are a few of the more common medical errors that may result from exhausted nurses who lose focus, become confused, or have difficulty making decisions:
• Medication mistakes – wrong patient, wrong medication, or incorrect dosage or frequency
• Failure to ask for help when needed
• Failure to promptly contact a physician during an emergency
• Errors when charting
• Failure to properly communicate important information to physicians and peers
Any of these mistakes can lead to severe injuries or even death.
A Nurse’s Medical Negligence Could Result in Medical Malpractice
Everyone makes mistakes, but some errors can be fatal or life-altering.
What makes the difference between a simple nursing mistake and one that warrants a medical malpractice claim? Specific legal requirements must be met for a situation to be considered medical malpractice.
For a medical malpractice claim to be viable, the following items must apply:
• There must be an existing nurse-patient relationship.
• The act or failure to act by the nurse(s) was a breach of the applicable standard of care.
• The breach of the standard of care was the direct cause of the injury sustained by the patient.
Understaffed hospitals are much more likely to have higher rates of medical errors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted research which has revealed the long work hours nurses keep contribute to more complications in patients. Additionally, patients in understaffed hospitals are much more likely to suffer from skin ulcers, shock, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and even cardiac arrest. The rates of these problems are also higher in hospitals where nurses are required to work overtime.
Seeking Help for Medical Malpractice Victims
If you or a loved one has suffered from a nurse’s medical errors in the Los Angeles area, consult with a Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney. Get a free case review from The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. Call (310) 289-2600 today to schedule your free case review.