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Nurse Fatigue and Malpractice Claims: Do Nurses Play a Role in Medical Errors?

Written by Berkowitz

Nurse Holding Statue of Lady JusticeLawyers Serving Victims of Nurse Fatigue

The healthcare system has been flooded with hundreds of patients. While most people know that doctors are overwhelmed, clinics are booked out, and hospitals are having difficulty finding beds, few think of the other healthcare professionals affected. Nurses, for example, are extremely understaffed and in high demand across the country. Because there is a nursing shortage, those employed often work long hours and suffer from extreme fatigue.

Shift Work and Fatigue

Even nurses who don’t work long hours may experience shift work issues. Shift work usually means a 12-hour shift, but those 12 hours could span overnight. Many add extra hours to their schedule to increase their shifts, lessening how much time there is for sleep. Also, when nurses have longer shifts and less time off, they suffer from fatigue, exhaustion, and even drowsiness while at work. This can affect their ability to care for a patient properly.

The Effects of Fatigue on the Human Body

Most do not realize how fatigue can affect them – even as healthcare professionals. Fatigue can dramatically decrease a person’s concentration and his or her ability to remain focused. Some people may even doze off without realizing that they have done so.

As a person falls into extreme fatigue, they suffer from multiple cognitive and physical problems, including:

  • Impaired motor skills
  • Less energy
  • Slower movement
  • Hazy thoughts
  • Judgment errors

When a member of the nursing staff is suffering from fatigue, the risk for error heightens. This is because a nurse may make mistakes that lead to serious injury, or possibly fail to check in on a patient and miss symptoms of a critical issue.

Nurse Fatigue and Malpractice

When a nurse makes an error in judgment or commits a negligent act, he or she is committing malpractice. Medical staff, including nurses, are required to ensure proper care is received by every patient in that facility. By showing up to work fatigued and unable to care for the patient properly, the nurse is negligent. Accidents that lead to harm or death can result in a medical malpractice suit against the nurse, nursing supervisor, doctor overseeing the patient’s care, or even the hospital.

Responsibility: Who Is Responsible When a Nurse is Overworked?

It is not just the nurse who is responsible when a patient error occurs. Instead, the respondeat superior theory will take over. In this instance, the hospital could be liable. After all, the hospital failed to have adequate staffing; therefore, existing nurses were required to work extra. Also, nursing managers could be held liable for errors, because it is their responsibility to ensure that the nursing staff gets adequate rest and has sufficient numbers of days off in between shifts.

Speak With a Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you think your injuries resulted from a tired or overworked healthcare professional, you may have a claim for malpractice. Meet with a medical malpractice attorney today to explore your options. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call us or contact us online to get started with your malpractice claim.