Bradshaw Law, LLC
Bradshaw Law, LLC

Common Injuries Caused by Doctor Fatigue

Common Injuries Caused by Doctor Fatigue

Doctor fatigue can lead to misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis, medication errors, surgical errors and complications, communication breakdowns and missed handoffs in Las Vegas, Nevada. The healthcare profession often requires providers to work in high-pressure situations that can lead to sleep deprivation and fatigue. In turn, this can have adverse effects on their health, wellbeing, and performance, ultimately affecting the safety of their patients.

Fatigue and Its Impact on Healthcare Professionals

Medical professionals are just as susceptible to making catastrophic errors due to fatigue as any other worker. According to research, up to 75% of medical professionals experience fatigue, which causes an increase in both doctor and nursing errors as shifts get longer. Fatigue is a work-related syndrome that medical professionals may suffer from, and is characterized by a range of symptoms:

  • Exhaustion that affects both emotional and physical wellbeing
  • Feeling less productive or capable than usual
  • Depression, which can manifest as feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Depersonalization, where one feels disconnected from their thoughts and emotions
  • Cynicism, or a feeling of indifference towards work or other people

High rates of physician fatigue can lead to reduced quality of care, decreased patient safety, lower patient satisfaction, and higher turnover rates among medical professionals. In some cases, fatigued doctors may make medical errors that can prove to be life-threatening. Such errors can leave patients and their families to bear the burden of medical debt and deal with the many other consequences of a serious and painful injury.

Factors Contributing to Doctor Fatigue in Nevada

Doctors are regularly exposed to factors that increase fatigue risk.

Long Working Hours

Many Healthcare providers are frequently required to work extended hours, leading to a higher risk of fatigue. Studies have shown that longer shifts, particularly those lasting 12 hours or more, are associated with a 25-30% higher risk of accidents or injuries compared to an 8-hour shift.

Complex and Intense Work

Doctors have to work long hours and perform complex and mentally demanding tasks, which can lead to fatigue due to sustained attention. A high workload intensity, such as numerous patient consultations, is also a significant factor that can cause negative impacts such as prescribing errors due to decision fatigue. Decision fatigue happens when the quality of decisions made by an individual deteriorates after a long period of decision-making.

Working Shifts

Shift work can cause doctors to feel fatigued and function less effectively due to the disruption of their natural sleep cycle. The effects of shift work are more pronounced when working night shifts, early morning shifts, having short recovery times between shifts, rapidly rotating schedules, and working full shifts in succession, such as blocks of seven nights.

Other Factors

A wide range of factors can impact doctors’ experiences of fatigue and sleep deprivation. These factors include having to take annual leave at fixed times, facing bullying or harassment, time pressures associated with training, unpredictable work schedules, and additional responsibilities like running a general care practice.

Patient Demand and Staffing Shortages

With fewer healthcare professionals on staff, the likelihood of medical errors increases. It is suggested that medical errors account for more than 250,000 deaths annually in the United States. Doctors have observed an increase in medical errors, and they attribute the cause in part to staffing shortages and constant stress.

Staffing shortage also worsens the patient experience. In medical centers, shortages lead to longer wait times for patients to receive care or outright delays in access to diagnosis and treatment. Staffing shortages and the resulting delays increase patient suffering and negatively impact patient health. Further, patient demand may put extra pressure on healthcare providers, through dissatisfaction and complaints.

Patients tend to have high expectations and demand quality care, but the financial pressure on healthcare providers to see a certain number of patients every hour often conflicts with this.

Additionally, overworked and understaffed medical teams are more likely to lead to tired doctors and medical mistakes due to high cognitive failure. Such failure can be caused by stress, lack of expertise, heavy patient load, poor mental health, or other factors. High cognitive failure can lead to healthcare workers taking shortcuts in safety procedures, inadequate patient monitoring, and physical injuries.

Common Injuries Caused by Doctor Fatigue in Nevada

While medical professionals may make a wide variety of errors due to fatigue, there are some common mistakes that can cause serious injury in Nevada:

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Fatigue can significantly impair a healthcare provider’s judgment and analytical abilities. The lack of focus caused by fatigue can easily result in the misdiagnosis of diseases that would otherwise be correctly diagnosed. Missed or delayed diagnosis is especially dangerous, as the differences between some diseases can be subtle. Additionally, there is a risk of incorrect test interpretation, where medical tests or examinations such as blood tests or x-rays are misread. Such misinterpretations can lead to further misdiagnosis and provide later healthcare professionals with a mistaken view of the patient’s needs.

Medication Errors

Ensuring that hospital patients receive the accurate dosage of the appropriate medication is crucial. In the event that a doctor, who may be experiencing fatigue, administers a double dose, misses a dose, or dispenses the wrong medication to a patient, it can lead to severe injuries.

Surgical Errors and Complications

During a surgery, it is crucial for the doctor to remain completely focused and be precise with his or her movements. Fatigue can impair the doctor’s judgment, leading to mistakes that could cause to injuries or complications for the patient. Even a momentary lapse of concentration or a slight error can have serious consequences. Therefore, it is important that doctors remain alert and attentive throughout the entire procedure.

Communication Breakdowns and Missed Handoffs

Patient handoff is the process of transferring the responsibility of caring for a patient from one healthcare provider to another. It involves the exchange of accurate and up-to-date information about the patient’s condition, treatment, and any recent or anticipated changes.

Effective communication during patient handoffs is essential for ensuring patient safety and providing quality care. Communication breakdowns lead to medical error, which can have serious consequences for the patient.

Doctors who are fatigued may struggle with processing, recalling, and effectively communicating information. They may also fail to take important notes and keep patient records up to date. Breakdowns such as these can result in essential information not getting communicated properly during handoffs. In other cases, a doctor may miss a handoff entirely, resulting in the new doctor not having adequate information to provide proper care.

Recognizing Signs of Doctor Fatigue

Fatigue poses risks for both patients and doctors. Recognize warning signs of doctor fatigue helps to ensure quality healthcare.

Physical and Emotional Indicators

Doctor fatigue is primarily characterized by physical exhaustion. Physical exhaustion can make it hard for doctors to start the day and leave them feeling depleted by the end of it.

Exhaustion can also trigger emotional symptoms such as depersonalization, poor mood, and emotional detachment. At this point, doctors may not be emotionally available for their patients, and may begin to question the value and quality of their work or their ability to provide quality care.

If your healthcare provider appears to have low physical or emotional energy levels, seems to be lacking motivation and compassion, or has a negative mood, it may be an indication that he or she is struggling with fatigue.

Patient Rights and Expectations of Healthcare Professionals

If you are wondering – “How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?”, Nevada has laws that clearly outline the rights of patients regarding their healthcare. These laws include provisions that ensure patients’ rights are protected and respected:

  • Patients have the right to receive caring and respectful treatment.
  • Patients have the right to refuse treatment within the limits of the law and be informed of the prospective outcomes of such refusal.
  • Patients have the right to decline participation in any medical experiments conducted at the facility.
  • Patients have the right to maintain their privacy regarding their medical care.
  • Patients have the right to expect their reasonable requests for services to be satisfied by the facility, based on its ability to do so.
  • Patients have the right to receive continuous care while at the facility.

Additionally, the American Medical Association has a national code of medical ethics that provides patients with several rights, including the right to respectful treatment, timely attention, information, privacy, and confidentiality. Patients can also expect to receive guidance from their physicians, ask questions, make decisions, and obtain copies of their medical records. Furthermore, physicians are expected to provide continuity of care and coordinate with other healthcare professionals.

A healthcare provider experiencing fatigue may not be able to effectively fulfill a patient’s rights. If doctor fatigue has caused medical errors resulting in adverse health conditions for patients, this may be classified as medical negligence. A medical malpractice lawyer may assist you in seeking compensation for any damages that you have suffered.