Categories: Health Care, Hospital, Medical Malpractice Defense, Patient Care,

Studies show that a lack of sleep can negatively impact one’s abilities to make decisions, focus his/her attention, and retain information. The risk for injury or mistakes is elevated when someone is sleep deprived, and even more so when that person is also administering medical care. Nurses and doctors, especially those who work in a hospital or emergency room, are often pulling double shifts, running around the clock to ensure that their patients are receiving the best care. But when the long hours and late nights begin to add up, sleep deprivation becomes a major liability, medical malpractice defense lawyers in Florida, Georgia, New York and New Jersey say. 

It has been reported that nurses who had gone without sleep for extended periods of time, or who were tired on their shifts, failed to recover or respond as quickly to situations at work than nurses who were getting enough sleep. According to a recent article in the American Journal of Critical Care, these overtired nurses were more likely to report that they regretted some clinical decisions made during these shifts. Having these regrets can have a negative impact on not only the work immediately affected, but an ongoing effect on future work—including stress, anxiety, and a loss of confidence. 

As part of their research for the article that appeared in American Journal, Linda D. Scott, RN, PhD, the associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, along with her colleagues, canvassed 3,500 nurses for information. The researchers selected nurses who worked at least 36 hours per week, as well as 14,000 other nurses who belong to the membership list of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Of those surveyed, 605 nurses responded. 

Almost a third of the nurses responded that they had regrets regarding some of the decisions they had made while operating on too little sleep. A majority of these nurses frequently worked night shifts, or pulled 12-hour rotations. Researchers analyzed the nurses’ personal characteristics and work habits, the effects of sleep, and satisfaction. In all of their studies, sleep deprivation caused nurses to have slower response time during their shifts, a continued lack of sleep, and daytime tiredness. With all of these symptoms, nurses who expressed regret may not have been on top of their games when they made certain calls about treatment, or may have been too stressed or overtired to pay enough attention to a patient’s symptoms or treatment plan. 

The American Journal report indicates that sleep deprivation continues to be a hindrance to providing top-notch medical care, and medical malpractice defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale say that this type of stress can cause serious problems if hospitals and administrators do not take steps to correct it. By increasing nursing staff, planning more spread-out shifts, encouraging mid-shift breaks or naps for 12-hour or all-night employees, and avoiding schedules that feature back-to-back shifts, hospital administrators and scheduling coordinators may be able to eliminate some of the fatigue plaguing their nurses. In addition, educating nurses on the signs of sleep deprivation, and acting accordingly, can help stop the problem from escalating further. 

At Florida, Georgia, New York and New Jersey law firm Lubell Rosen, our medical malpractice defense attorneys represent nurses and doctors who have had their decision-making skills compromised by too little sleep, or too little time away from their jobs. If you are facing legal actions, contact a Lubell Rosen attorney today.