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Sleep Deprived Nurses Can Make Medical Errors

by The Beasley Firm  |  May 10, 2011  |  

Just recently, results of a study performed by Jeanne Geiger-Brown, RN, PhD, of the University of Maryland Baltimore, showed the impact sleep deprivation has on nurses. Geiger-Brown studied hospital nurses who routinely worked 12 hour shifts. She had the nurses wear a wristwatch-like device called an actigraph that measured their sleep patterns. The majority of nurses, over two-thirds of them, got less than six hours of sleep in between shifts. The other one-third, had only two to five hours of sleep in between shifts.

Geiger-Brown found that nurses who work 12 hour shifts were chronically sleep deprived. “Many don’t leave their workplaces when their shift is over, but remain at work for 30 to 60 minutes or more to finish their activities and charting. Then, there is commute time plus chores to do at home.” Many of the nurses in the study admitted to being exhausted. One nurse admitted that her husband had to call her on her cell phone after each shift so she would stay awake while driving home. Other nurses would not go to the bathroom before they left the hospital because they felt that the discomfort of a full bladder would prevent them from falling asleep while driving home. I must admit, even I am guilty of stopping at STOP signs waiting for them to turn green or getting home and not remembering the ride home.

When someone is sleep deprived, the brain cannot function the way it should even if you think it can. Many of the nurses in the study had “false beliefs” regarding chronic sleep deprivation because they had not made a medical mistake or medication error yet. Yet as Geiger-Brown said, “No individual can control the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation. It’s a biological phenomenon that is beyond our control.” It would make sense that the same would hold true for doctors who are also sleep deprived and caring for patients.

Because our experienced Philadelphia medical negligence teams here at the nationally known Beasley Law Firm are also doctors and nurses, we know first hand what it was like to go to work in a hospital sleep deprived. As experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys, we know that sleep deprivation can lead to medical negligence, medication errors, and negligent care. If you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice it may have been caused by a sleep deprived healthcare provider. Please feel free to contact us for a free, no risk, and confidential consultation.

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