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Nurse’s Group Speaks Out About the Dangers of Extended Work Hours

NurseNurses are often required to work long, extended hours – sometimes more than one 12-hour shift in a 24-hour period. Doctors and interns do this as well, sometimes working as much as 36 hours straight. In fact, a recent study led to the removal of hour restrictions on interning physicians. Now a nurse’s group is speaking out and discussing the risk that extended work hours pose to patients. They hope it will not only help reduce the hours they must work at one time but that it will also improve patient safety and decrease the number of medical errors.

Long Hours Increase Incidence of Medical Errors

While a 12-hour shift may not do much to increase the rate of medical mistakes, shifts that extend beyond 12 hours or include returning to work for another 12-hour shift without an adequate amount of sleep, can significantly impact a nurse or doctor’s memory and concentration. These cognitive abilities are necessary for everything from calculating medicine dosages to ensuring that the information added to a chart is accurate. Poor coordination and reduced reflexes – which are crucial to properly care for patients – can suffer as well. Further, in a high-stress industry, the increased risk of irritability and anxiety may prove to be problematic for overworked doctors and nurses.

Another problem with extended work hours is that it assumes every nurse or doctor has the same skill level, and the same ability to work through the fatigue. Some may suffer from their own health conditions that make it nearly impossible to focus after too many hours of not sleeping. Others simply may not have the skills to accommodate for their fatigue. Either way, patients are placed at risk.

Nurses Speak out Against Extended Hours

While some states restrict the hours that nurses work, not all do. In those areas, nurses may be required to work as many as two 12-hour shifts, back-to-back. While this is sometimes the result of nurse shortages, it is more frequently caused by inadequate or ineffective planning on the part of the hospital administrator. Yet it is nurses and their patients who are forced to pay the price – through fatigue and an increased risk of errors. Worse yet, they are not allowed to refuse the overtime hours; failure to accept it could result in termination.

Contact Our San Jose Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you or someone you love has experienced a medical injury, Corsliglia, McMahon & Allard, LLP can help. Dedicated to your best interest, we will carefully examine your records and pursue the most aggressive compensation possible for your situation. Learn more by scheduling your free consultation with our San Jose medical malpractice lawyers. Call (408) 289-1417 today.

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