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Government study links worker fatigue and medical errors

The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority released an article on June 5 highlighting a connection between worker fatigue and health care mistakes. According to the article, health care worker fatigue was cited as a factor in 1,601 reported incidents between June 2004 and August 2013.

Medication errors were more common than any other type of error, with 62.1 percent of incidents involving medication. The most common medication errors were related to dosage, with patients being dispensed either too much or too little of the prescribed drug. Relatively few of the cases studied resulted in harm to a patient, but 37 incidents were categorized as harmful and four cases resulted in death. Errors related to tests, procedures and treatments were second to medication errors, cited in 26 percent of incidents.

A manager of safety analysis for the PPSA said that simply reducing staff hours may not effectively combat the problem. Limiting worker hours does not fix problems of sleep disruption, for example. It is not uncommon for health care workers to work 12 hours or more in a shift. In studies focused on nursing staff, error risk increased significantly when nurses worked 12.5 hours or more. The safety analysis manager said further study would be required to develop an understanding of the effects of 12-hour shifts on the safety of patients.

Patients who have been injured because of medication errors or other doctor or hospital negligence may have claims for compensation in civil court. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to help injured parties recover for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages or other damages. Medical malpractice cases often involve complicated issues and difficult concepts, and the attorney may arrange for expert testimony in this regard.

Source: Pittsburgh Business Times, "Worker fatigue cause of health care mistakes, study finds", Ethan Lott, June 05, 2014

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