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Overworked Nurses are a Safety Risk in Hospitals

overworked nurses

Much has been done to prevent fatigue and burnout in doctors and residents in hospitals. Most are able to take breaks and rest as needed during long shifts. But, overworked nurses are often overlooked. Nurses do a lot of the “grunt work” in hospital settings—administering medications, caring for patients, and carrying out doctors’ life-saving orders. They assist in surgeries and in the ER. When a nurse is fatigued, drowsy, and burnt out, he or she could make a mistake with fatal consequences for a patient.

Why are Nurses Burnt Out?

Nurses frequently work 12-hour shifts. While this model lets the same nurse watch a patient for a longer period of time and allows nurses to take longer breaks between shifts, it can also cause fatigue. Different hospitals have different rules and cultures, and some may not provide for adequate breaks during a long shift. Nurses may pick up extra shifts and not get enough rest in between. While receiving overtime is beneficial for the hospital and the nurse, it could be dangerous for patients who may not be getting the highest level of care.

Additionally, a nurse could have too many patients to see in a day and not be able to pay enough attention to each patient. Nurses can also suffer from emotional exhaustion, especially if they are working in a traumatic setting, such as a pediatric oncology wing or hospice setting.

Types of Mistakes Fatigued Nurses can Make

Fatigue leads to a host of emotional, cognitive, and physical problems. Overworked nurses may suffer from an inability to focus, irritability, impaired decision-making, headaches, drowsiness, confusion, and depression. These symptoms may lead to harmful mistakes such as:

  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Administering the wrong dosage of medication
  • Failing to contact a doctor in an emergency
  • Failing to recognize an emergency
  • Not attending to a patient’s nutritional or hydration needs

Some errors, even seemingly small ones, could be life-threatening to a patient. For example, if a patient mistakenly receives too much medicine, he or she can overdose, leading to brain damage or even death.

If you or someone you love was harmed due to the mistake of a nurse or other hospital staff member, speak to an attorney about your options for legal recourse.

Contact a Malpractice Lawyer in Baltimore or Washington D.C.

No one should suffer at the hands of a negligent healthcare practitioner. Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. is a full-service medical malpractice law firm that upholds justice for victims of serious medical mistakes. Our firm can be reached at 410-234-1000, and we see clients in our Baltimore and Washington, D.C. offices. You can also complete a contact form.

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