Fatigue Causes Healthcare Errors

Fatigue Causes Healthcare Errors

| Apr 18, 2013

So what do those long hours on nursing duty mean when it comes to the quality of healthcare we receive? When it comes to overworked nurses, it leads to a higher risk of mistakes, according to a new study.

Conducted by HealthLeaders Media and commissioned by the workforce management organization Kronos Inc., the study found that more than a quarter of all nurses surveyed said they'd made an error due to fatigue.

Most of those surveyed attributed their fatigue to excessive workload and longer shifts. More than 75 percent of the 120 nurses surveyed said they work on a schedule that includes 12-hour shifts.

Almost all of those who responded, 96 percent, said they felt tired at the start of their shift, which could negatively impact patient care. Almost as many, 92 percent ended the day feeling exhausted as well.

Of those surveyed:

  • 69 percent of respondents said fatigue had caused them to feel concern over their ability to perform during work hours.
  • Nearly 65 percent of healthcare professionals reported they almost made an error at work because of fatigue.
  • A majority of those surveyed, 56 percent, said rest periods were often neglected, while 65 percent have no policy on cumulative days of extended shifts.

Such heavy workloads and inadequate staffing levels could be dangerous for patients, who often depend on nurses for the majority of their care during hospital stays.

"With heightened scrutiny around the environment of care and need for safety, staffing is one of the most critical operational functions that nursing leadership must address," said Susan M. Reese, director of Kronos. 

"Nurse fatigue, patient safety, and revenue streams are inextricably linked. A centralized, automated workforce management solution that takes into account organizational policies, metrics, and nurse manager insights to create equitable workload distribution and intelligent schedules is a necessity today. This will enable healthcare organizations to further control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve productivity."

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