Fatigue is no excuse for medical error

Medical professionals have shouldered an incredible burden these last months. They have done a fantastic job under extremely challenging conditions. What fewer people know is that medical professionals have been severely overworked for years. It is likely they could have avoided many medical errors if they had adequate rest before dealing with patients.

Medical providers have known staff fatigue is a problem for a long time

A Canadian study published a year ago found 65% of doctors and 78% of nurses showed signs of burnout. There is little reason to think it is any different for U.S. staff. In 2011, The Joint Association set out a series of recommendations to reduce the risks posed to patients due to medical staff fatigue.

These are some of the things the report recommended:

  • Improve hand over of patient information when shifts change
  • Improve the distribution of work shifts to allow better sleep patterns
  • Improve facilities to help medical staff get better rest during breaks
  • Improve the safety culture to make people more aware of the risk of fatigue and encourage them to report when they are feeling tired

The Joint Association report was a decade ago. Medical providers have had plenty of opportunities to make changes to remedy the situation. Yet, patients are still routinely put at unnecessary risk because the medics or nurses attending them are exhausted.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to a medical professional’s errors, there is a high chance that fatigue played a role in the mistakes made. Medical institutions and professionals may try to argue that this is out of their control. However, they have known about the dangers for years. The question is, what did they do to tackle the issue?