Nursing fatigue causes medication errors in Detroit

Research shows that 65 percent of fatigued nurses make medication errors, and 96 out of 100 nurses are already tired when they begin their shift.

Motor City health care professionals work long and tiresome hours, much to the detriment of their patients. Nursing fatigue has become such a problem in Detroit and the U.S. that the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013 attempted to implement legislation to reduce nursing fatigue. The bill didn't pass, despite the necessity for it. A revised version of the bill was submitted to Congress in 2015 and remains pending. It, too, is predicted to fail, which means more patients may become the victims of medication errors.

Study shows extent of problem

A Joint Commission study into nursing fatigue revealed some distressing admissions from these health care professionals. When it surveyed 100 nurses, the results revealed:

  • Only 50 percent of nurses spent adequate time with their patients because two out of five care units were not properly staffed.
  • Forty-three percent of nurses had been required to increase their overtime, and 54 percent said their workloads were excessive.
  • Seventy-seven percent worked 12-hour shifts, and 96 nurses said they were already tired at the beginning of their shift.

This survey is one of many to prove that nurses are overworked and fatigued, which is common in many industries. However, fatigue in many other vocations does not cause illness, injury and even death.

Increased risk caused by fatigue

In a National Institutes of Health recap, researchers determined that nurses have a 3.4-percent increased chance of committing a medical error, including errors while a patient is under anesthesia, if they have slept six or fewer hours within their last 24 hours. This might not seem like a high percentage, but when those working the study applied that percentage to a teaching hospital, such as Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital, where there are upward of 1,000 nursing shifts daily, the numbers translated to 34 mistakes a day.

Fatigue and medication errors

According to the National Institutes of Health, 65 percent of tired nurses make errors when administering medication to their patients. The errors include giving a patient the wrong dosage of an injectable or oral medication, or setting the wrong infusion rate of an IV drip medication. Tired nurses have also given patients the wrong medication altogether, because the name of the prescribed remedy is similar to something else or they become confused by a doctor's abbreviation of the drug on the charts.

Medication error can be the result of medical malpractice

An error in administering medication that has harmed or killed a patient might be considered medical malpractice. Determining whether malpractice has occurred is best left to professionals well-versed in medical legislation. Hiring a Detroit medical malpractice attorney gives the patient and/or his or her family's best chance of potentially recovering any damages caused by a drug error.