Burnt out nurses are more likely to make medical errors

A new study says that high rates of depression among nurses are linked to higher rates of medical errors.

Nurses are often on the frontlines of healthcare and the decisions they make can have a profound impact on a patient's wellbeing. However, what often goes underappreciated is the extent to which a nurse's own wellbeing has on his or her job performance. A new nationwide study from Ohio State University found that medical errors made by nurses are strongly correlated to nurses' health and wellbeing, especially their mental health. The study suggests that one way to bring down high rates of medical errors in U.S. hospitals is by focusing on the stress and burn out that many healthcare practitioners routinely face.

Rate of medical errors among nurses

The study used surveys that were completed by nurses in clinical practice that were provided through nursing organizations and at 20 acute care hospitals across the country. The survey found worryingly high rates of poor physical and mental health among nurses, with 54 percent of nurses saying they were in poor health. About a third of respondents reported suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress.

Poor health among nurses was a big indicator of medical errors. The survey found that approximately a third of nurses had made at least one medical error in the previous five years and those in poor health were 26 to 71 percent more likely to make such an error. Nurses suffering from depression had the highest likelihood of making a medical error.

Bringing down medical errors

The study is the first of its kind to look at the impact physical and mental wellbeing among nurses has on medical errors. The results are especially important given that, as CNN reports, a previous study has found that medical errors may actually be the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.

The high rates of such errors among nurses suffering from depression suggest that hospitals need to do more to ensure that their staff have access to mental health resources. Burn out and fatigue is a common problem among medical practitioners, including nurses, and it affects their job performance. The study's authors recommend hospitals limiting the hours per shift nurses are allowed to work and providing depression screening. Such resources could foster a work environment where nurses are more likely to be in better health and more alert while on the job.

Medical malpractice law

As mentioned above, medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the country. Those who have been hurt by a medical professional's alleged negligence or recklessness should get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney today. An experienced attorney can help clients understand their legal options and, if possible, help them pursue compensation for their ordeal.