We’ve all had days at work when we showed up tired. Chances are most of us were able to adjust our workloads and bounce back the next day. But what happens when that workplace is a hospital?
It turns out that fatigue may be a significant cause of surgical errors in Oregon and across the country. According to a study recently published in the Archives of Surgery, surgical residents worked under fatigue nearly half the time, resulting in cognitive functioning at around 80% of full capacity. To put that in context, mental functioning while legally drunk (a blood alcohol level of 0.08%) is around 70%.
The study is one of the first to quantify resident surgeon fatigue and the accompanying risk of medical error. The authors recommended that scheduling be adjusted to eliminate the night shift and that hospitals begin to more closely monitor residents for fatigue during their shifts.
Under the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, residents have an 80-hour weekly limit (averaged over four weeks) and cannot work more than 24 hours at a time. Many hospital leaders have also expressed a commitment to reducing medical errors. However, those assurances have not been translated into practice in the case of resident fatigue, which continues to pose a danger to patients.
A lawsuit may be one way to deter medical negligence and provide fair compensation to victims of surgical error. If you or a loved one have been injured and believe your doctor was at fault, don’t delay in consulting an attorney. Most states require you to bring your medical malpractice claim within a limited time after your injury. An attorney can help you prepare your best claim.
Source: Huffington Post, “Sleepy Surgeons: New Study Shines Light On Risks Of Surgeon Fatigue,” Catherine Pearson, May 21, 2012