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From assisting with lifesaving procedures and monitoring the health of patients to responding to medical emergencies and keeping treating physicians apprised of developments, there is simply no disputing the essential role that nurses play in critical care settings. Unfortunately, a recently released study reveals that both sleep deprivation and fatigue may be having a major impact on the efficacy of the care provided by many of these nurses.
The study, published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Critical Care, asked 605 critical care nurses a series of work-related and personal questions about their sleeping habits, fatigue levels and clinical decision-making abilities.
Shockingly, the researchers discovered that the overwhelming majority of critical care nurses indicated that they routinely experienced everything from daytime drowsiness and sleep deprivation to significant fatigue and an inability to recover from this fatigue.
However, this proved to be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The researchers found that as much as 29 percent of the critical care nurses surveyed reported some type of regret surrounding clinical decision-making. This phenomenon was found to be especially acute among those nurses who reported working night shifts and 12-hour shifts, higher levels of fatigue and/or shorter recovery times between shifts.
“Registered nurses play a pivotal role as members of the health care team, but fatigued and sleep-deprived critical care nurses put their patients and themselves at serious risk,” reads the study.
In order to help rectify this problem, the researchers recommend that hospitals implement measures specially designed to ensure critical care nurses get more rest, including better coverage resources, fatigue management education and improved scheduling models.
However, the researchers also pointed out that some of the onus also rests with the individual critical care nurses themselves, who should practice such simple steps as avoiding extended shifts or consecutive workdays, taking naps whenever possible and abiding by a proper sleep schedule.
If you or a loved one has been victimized by what you believe was a serious nursing error or other form of medical malpractice, you should strongly consider speaking with a skilled attorney to learn more about your rights and your options.
Source: FierceHealthcare, “Tired nurses may regret clinical decisions,” Ilene MacDonald, Jan. 2, 2014