Depression and stress among nurses leads to medical errors

A recent study has found that nurses suffering from depression are much more likely to make medical errors.

It is well known that nurses face a stressful and demanding job, which is perhaps why it is not entirely surprising that rates of depression are higher among nurses than among other professionals. However, what has been an understudied aspect of that fact is how nurses' mental health affects medical errors. A recent study has shown that nurses who are suffering from stress and depression report a far higher likelihood of having made a medical error than nurses who have low rates of stress and depression. The study helps shine a light on just how important mental health among healthcare professionals is in the fight against medical errors.

Depression common among nurses

The study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, surveyed 1,790 nurses across the United States working in clinical practices. The survey included 53 questions pertaining to physical and mental well-being and medical errors. The survey found that 54 percent of nurses described themselves as being in either poor physical or mental health, and close to a third said they suffered from depression, stress, or anxiety.

About half of the nurses surveyed said they had made at least one medical error in the past five years. When researchers compared the rates of self-reported medical errors to rates of poor health, they found that those reporting to be in poor physical or mental health were 26 to 71 percent likelier to have made a self-reported medical error. Nurses suffering from depression were the likeliest to commit a medical error.

Stressful environment leads to errors

In a sense, the findings are not entirely surprising. Working in a clinical setting is highly stressful and nurses regularly report suffering from burnout, long shifts, compassion fatigue, and poor work-life balance. Of course, those who are suffering from such mental health problems are not going to perform as well at their jobs as their peers.

Many healthcare settings, however, provide few resources for nurses and other healthcare professionals who need support. As Health Leaders Media reports, there is still plenty of stigma in healthcare workplaces about mental health problems, which can make it difficult for nurses and physicians who are suffering from such problems to come forward looking for help. Without that help at hand, it is not just the nurses themselves who suffer, but their patients as well.

Medical malpractice law

For patients who have been victims of alleged medical malpractice, it is important to reach out to a medical malpractice attorney. Holding hospitals and healthcare providers accountable not only ensures that victims are compensated for their ordeals, but that mistakes by healthcare professionals can be identified and hopefully avoided in the future.