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Sleep deprivation can lead to fatal medical errors

Health care employees in Bridgeport may aim to provide their patients with the best possible care, but unfortunately, they may undermine this goal by not getting enough sleep. According to one report, 32 percent of health care employees stated that they only got six hours of sleep daily. This is different from the amount of sleep professionals recommend that adults get of seven to nine hours a day.

In fact, one professional claims that sleep deprivation is tolerated as part of the workplace culture for health care employees. For example, a health care employee might work for an entire one to two day shift, and see their lack of sleep as something to be proud of, despite the fact that workplace fatigue is a factor in medication errors. These errors cause the death of over 100,000 individuals in our nation annually. Moreover, according to a 2006 study, medical interns, who stayed on the clock for an additional three hours, were responsible for 22 percent more critical errors, leading to an uptick in fatalities.

Making matters worse, after working a long night shift, nurses are performing daytime activities, rather than sleeping, and may even take on additional shifts. In addition, emergency medical service employees are usually only paid the minimum wage, meaning that they have to take on a second job.

When a person does not get enough sleep, they are not as alert as they would be if they had an adequate amount of rest. They may also experience pain, be in a bad mood and experience frustration easily.

Moreover, a lack of sleep can have a negative effect on a person's ability to make decisions and control their impulses. In addition, a person's "fight or flight" neurotransmitters are in a constant state of activity when the person is sleep deprived.

As one can see, a fatigued health care employee is a dangerous health care employee because their ability to adequately treat their patients is compromised. This can lead to misdiagnoses, medication mistakes or even fatal medical errors. Nonetheless, incidents of medical malpractice should not be tolerated. If a person believes they have been the victim of medical professional negligence, they may want to explore their options for compensation, including filing a lawsuit, if necessary.

Source: Sioux City Journal, "Sleep deprivation contributes to medical errors, affects health care workers' health," Dolly A. Butz, Feb. 10, 2017

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